TOKYO (AFP) - Japan and CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda's goal-scoring run in European football has given a big boost to the Blue Samurai's World Cup build-up after a recent crisis.
Japanese sports dailies were full of praise Thursday for Moscow's new signing after he set up a goal and scored the winner in a 2-1 away victory over Sevilla that sent the Russian side to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai watched the game on television with executives of football governing body FIFA in Zurich.
"When I told them I was surprised, some of the executives said the Europeans already knew Honda could play that well," Inukai told reporters.
"Honda's left foot has proven that he is Japan's new ace and it is packed with endless possibilities," the Sports Nippon commented.
The Nikkan Sports said Japan had "acquired a 'missile' that is comparable to Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo" while coach Takeshi Okada ambitiously insisted on aiming for a World Cup semi-final spot in South Africa.
Honda had been seen as a substitute for playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura who returned to his old J-League side Yokohama Marinos last month after struggling at Espanyol.
The 23-year-old Honda moved to Moscow in January after helping VVV Venlo return to the top of the Dutch league in the last season and scored in a 1-0 win over Amkar Perm on the opening day of the Russian season on Sunday.
Then on Tuesday, he set up Tomas Necid to score in the first-half and beat Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop with a 30-metre free kick on 55 minutes.
"It is like a fairytale," Dutch football great Ruud Gullit was quoted by Japanese media as saying of Honda's meteoric rise.
"He has made a great impact."
Honda, who moved to Venlo in January 2008 after four seasons with J-League side Nagoya Grampus, has become the first Japanese to reach the Champions League quarter-finals under the league's current format was set in 1992.
"I am not interested in a first for the Japanese. I am aiming higher still," Honda told Japanese media.
"A win over Sevilla is not an end. There are still others up there. I will aim for the top of the world and that makes football interesting to me."
Honda's European success is a boon to Japan after they finished third in the East Asian championships last month, which highlighted their perennial lack of firepower and put Okada's job at riske.
Fighting without their Europe-based players, Japan drew 0-0 with underdogs China and crashed 3-1 to arch-rivals South Korea.
But Honda set up a goal and scored a header in a 2-0 win over Bahrain this month in Japan's last qualifier for the 2011 Asian Cup to help save Okada's neck.
|Cuenca: Depor move an easy decision|
|Richardson keen on Roy reunion|
|Scotland to host England for November friendly|
|Kouyate enjoying West Ham life|
|Germany basks in World Cup glory|
|Seifert hails Bundesliga quality|
|Osman confident of Everton improvement|
|Kroos set for Real switch|
|MLS Preview: Sporting KC eye top spot, Red Bulls visit Union|
|Seattle Sounders 2 Portland Timbers 0: Conference leaders leave it late|
|2014 FIFA World Cup: Tweets of the tournament|
|2014 FIFA World Cup: Best goals|
|2014 FIFA World Cup: Tournament in numbers|
|2014 FIFA World Cup: To Russia with love?|
|2014 FIFA World Cup: Gotze glory rounds off captivating spectacle|
|World Cup win is unbelievable, says Gotze|
|Downing talks up Valencia arrival|
|Kramer: ´I can´t remember very much´|
|Peru Primera Division Review: Inti Gas go top, Universitario lose|
|Klose to decide on Germany future|
|Ecuador Primera A Review: Emelec poised for championship|
|Devastated Messi: Golden Ball not important|
|Messi comparison inspired Gotze, says Low|
|Hummels: I´m on another planet|
|Messi named player of the tournament|
|Sabella proud of players, defends Messi|
|Adebayor contracts malaria, out of US tour|
|Lahm ecstatic after World Cup triumph|
|Newcastle complete Cabella deal|
|Mascherano endures World Cup pain|
|2014 FIFA World Cup Final: Player Ratings|
|2014 FIFA World Cup Final: Where the final was won and lost|
|2014 FIFA World Cup Final: New Germany ready to dominate|
|2014 FIFA World Cup Final: Germany 1 Argentina 0 (after extra time)|
|BREAKING NEWS: Germany win World Cup|
|Rousseff thanks Brazil despite World Cup woe|
|Fred ´finished´ with Brazil|
|Manchester City lose to Dundee in pre-season opener|
|Rami keen to restore Milan glories|
|Thai Premier League Review: Muang Thong win again, BEC Tero Sasana pay penalty|
|In-demand Lovren joins Southampton on tour|
|Adidas to stick with Suarez|
|Cesar accepts Brazil career all but over|
|Rodriguez signs new Fiorentina deal|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Celtic begin campaign, Steaua in Norway|
|K.League Review: Steelers maintain lead as top four all win|
|Suso eager for Liverpool stay|
|McDonald allays West Ham injury fears|
|Basanta urges Argentina to enjoy the moment|
|Schweinsteiger: Germany have big-match experience|
|Vidal relaxed over future|
|Bartomeu drooling over Barca strikeforce|
|Gerrard should remain captain, says Beckham|
|Cafu throws support behind Scolari|
|Sabella warns Argentina|
|MLS Review: Henry, Defoe star, as late goals rain down|
|Klinsmann: Germany are favourites|
|Robben rejects Van Gaal´s United proposal|
|Blind hopes Dutch youngsters stick together|
|Thiago Silva frustrated by failure|
|Adrian leaves Atletico for Porto|
|Van Gaal proud after Dutch win|
|Scolari leaving future up to CBF|
|Mixed emotions for Robben|
|FIFA World Cup: Brazil 0 Netherlands 3|
|Sabella remains unsure of Di Maria fitness|
|Abdennour pleased with friendly workout|
|Halilhodzic to take charge at Trabzonspor|
|Fenerbahce delighted to finally sign Diego|
|Low and Germany ready for finale|
|Lyon agree Rose deal|
|Neymar´s World Cup delights Bartomeu|
|De Laurentiis: Higuain going nowhere|
|Beckham lauds ´amazing´ Messi|
|PSG beat Videoton in seven-goal thriller|
|Horta makes Malaga switch|
|Southampton seal deal for Pelle|
|Barcelona ´convinced´ of reduction in Suarez ban|
|West Ham held by League Two Stevenage|
|Bianchi makes move to England|
|West Ham must be more clinical, says Allardyce|
|Germany experience will count - Lehmann|
|Berahino and Dorrans strike in Albion win|
|Ince settling quickly at Hull|
|Swansea in talks with Napoli over Michu|
|Dodo eyes Champions League with Inter|
|FIFA World Cup Preview: Germany v Argentina|
|Huddlestone out to hit the ground running|
|Pogba not bound for Chelsea - agent|
|Barry feeling fresh with Everton|
|Arteta plays down transfer talk|
|PSV complete De Jong deal|
|Colback excited for busy pre-season|
|Milan and Orlando in talks over Robinho|
|West Brom bring in Pocognoli|
|Maradona: Messi will define World Cup final|
|Rami seals Milan move|
|Kuyt eager to secure third place|
|Rodriguez talks up Real Madrid move|
|Bebe welcomes Benfica link|
|Koeman admits unsettled Lovren could leave|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: Argentina face old foes Germany with Brazil´s party in tatters|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: Messi aims to cement legacy|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: Sabella on the brink of greatness|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: Muller seeks to augment outstanding finals record|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: Low´s hard work pays off|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: The coaches to have tasted glory|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: The five most iconic finals|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: The five most iconic finals|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: Germany´s route to the final|
|FIFA World Cup Final Preview: Brazil 2014 produces moments to remember|
|SJ Earthquakes 1 DC United 2: Johnson, Silva score as Eastern Conference leaders extend advantage|
|Otamendi unfazed by price tag|
|Sam targeting top three with Schalke|
|Rodriguez out for revenge|
|Bruno Alves could leave Fenerbahce|
|Thiago Silva endured sleepless nights|
|Final on enemy soil ´special´, says Zabaleta|
|Arteta: Sanchez signing highlights Arsenal´s ambition|
|Mertesacker demands repeat performance|
|Scolari gets federation backing|
|Balotelli poses with shotgun|
|Lizarazu lauds Argentina´s craftiness|