Pele memories live on as Honda embraces ‘final’ World Cup

Japan icon Keisuke Honda’s dream of winning the World Cup began when, as a six-year-old, his father showed him footage of Brazilian legend Pele on an old VCR.

And although restricted to a substitute appearance so far in what is his third, and almost certainly final campaign, the former AC Milan star has not given up on that unlikely dream becoming reality.

“I’m feeling that this World Cup is my final one,” Honda said at the team’s training base in Kazan on Friday.

“I’m 32 years old and four years is pretty long. Right now I can’t decide about (what will happen) four years later, so I’m spending all my energy on this World Cup.

“That’s why I really want to succeed at this World Cup, with these teammates.”

Honda, who came on for the last 20 minutes of Japan’s 2-1 win over 10-man Colombia — the first for an Asian team over South American opponents — will be hoping for more when the Blue Samurai host Senegal in Yekaterinburg on Sunday.

With both sides sharing top spot in Group H after Senegal stunned Poland 2-1, he believes his experience could be key against both the Africans and final match opponents Poland.

“I’m an experienced player, I’m confident and know what we have to do for the next game against Senegal,” he added.

“Even if we lose against Senegal, I know how to avoid the pressure and how to prepare for Poland.”

But the midfielder, known for his free kicks and versatility in attack that have helped him to 36 goals in 96 appearances including seven in Japan’s qualifying campaign, almost never made it to Russia at all.

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