Keisuke Honda is an indispensable member of Takeshi Okada’s team. A prolific midfielder who will turn 24 the day before Japan kick-off their South Africa 2010 campaign, he dazzled for CSKA Moscow in the deep waters of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League, playing a critical role in their unforeseen charge to the quarter-finals.
Honda started out at Nagoya Grampus, scoring 11 goals in 90 games for the club between 2005 and 2008. His former Gamba coach Sef Vergoossen then took him to VVV-Venlo, and it didn’t take the player, who can also operate at left-wingback, long to illuminate the Dutch Eredivisie.
After scoring 24 times in 64 matches, there was significant interest in Honda. Liverpool, Everton, PSV and Ajax were among those reportedly interested in him, but it was CSKA Moscow that won the race for his signature in January 2010, to the cost of €6m.
Honda made his CSKA debut in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Sevilla. The first 90 minutes had ended 1-1 in Russia and the Spaniards were, therefore, the clear favourites to progess. However, after setting up his side’s first goal, Honda sealed a 2-1 victory with a superb free-kick, becoming the first Japanese player to score in the knockout phase of the competition in the process. He then impressed in the quarter-finals, despite CSKA’s narrow aggregate defeat by Inter Milan.
Honda, who represented Japan at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2005 and the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament three years later, made his full international debut in 2008 and is regarded as one of Asian football’s brightest talents.
He was a member of the Japan team for 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship and played for U-23 national team that qualified for 2008 Summer Olympics football tournament finals. He made a full international debut for Japan on June 22, 2008 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bahrain. On 14 July 2008, he was formally named as one of the midfielders of the Japanese U-23 national football team for the Beijing Olympics football competition. He scored his first goal for senior national team on 27 May 2009 in a friendly match against Chile at Nagai Stadium in Osaka. Honda also scored Japan’s winning goal in the 2010 World Cup against Cameroon, finishing off Daisuke Matsui’s cross into the top left corner of the net. His performance in the game gained him the Man Of The Match Award from FIFA. In the final group-stage game against Denmark, Honda scored a free kick in the 17th minute from 30 yards out before turning provider in the 88th minute for Shinji Okazaki to make the score 3-1 to Japan, a performance earning him the man of the match award as Japan qualified for the second round.