Keisuke Honda Drives Japan to World Cup Qualification

Japan became the first side to qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil when playmaker Keisuke Honda scored an injury-time penalty to claim a 1-1 draw with Australia in a dramatic finale in Saitama on Tuesday.

The Blue Samurai dominated for most of the match but failed to convert that pressure into goals and Australia winger Tommy Oar looked to have made them pay when his 81st minute cross from the left looped over Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who flapped and failed to clear.

But the Japanese were not to be denied and they poured forward with the equalizer inevitably coming via Honda, who only arrived in Japan on Monday after helping CSKA Moscow to the Russian Cup on Saturday.

His cross was handled in the area by full back Matt McKay in stoppage time and the bleach blond attacker stepped up to leather the spot kick straight down the middle past Mark Schwarzer to send the crowd into raptures.

Arsenal’s Wenger to scout Japan for talent

Having seen the well of talent dry up in France, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has identified Japan as an emerging market to find new players for his Premier League side.

The Frenchman has built a strong reputation for plucking the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires and Emmanuel Petit from clubs in his homeland and turning them into world class players.

But Wenger, now in his 17th season with the 13 times English champions, has struggled to replicate the successful transfer dealings in recent seasons with Arsenal’s last trophy being the 2005 FA Cup.

Moroccan international Marouane Chamakh is set to move to West Ham United after becoming the latest to fail at Arsenal after joining from Girondins Bordeaux in 2010, with French defender Sebastien Squillaci also expected to leave this month.

Read the rest of the story: Japan new market for talent, says Wenger.

Manchester United unveils Kagawa at Old Trafford

Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa was unveiled at Old Trafford on Thursday following his high-profile signing with Premier League powerhouse Manchester United.

“I feel like the world is watching me. I want to change the pressure I feel about playing for a big club into joy, and show my ability on the pitch,” the 23-year-old Kagawa said.

In the photo , Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa holds his jersey during a press conference at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on July 12, 2012, as he was unveiled following his high-profile signing with Premier League powerhouse Manchester United, moving from Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. To the right is Manchester manager Alex Ferguson.

Kagawa declines iconic No. 7 shirt

Manchester United new boy Shinji Kagawa is determined to make a lasting impact at Old Trafford following his move from Borussia Dortmund.

The 23-year-old was the subject of interest from major clubs from around the world after impressing this season for the Bundesliga champions. However, Sir Alex Ferguson moved quickly to secure the signing of the Japan midfielder.

Kagawa is now eagerly anticipating getting started for the Red Devils and insists he wants to carve out his own legacy at Old Trafford after turning down the chance to wear the famed No.7 shirt once donned with such distinction by George Best, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

United’s latest signing announced the decision in an impromptu press conference at Tokyos Narita Airport following a whirlwind trip to England.

In addition to a flock of journalists, the Japan international was greeted by 100 fans seeking autographs and handshakes.

“Ive just joined the team and havent accomplished anything yet,” Kagawa said after the 12-hour flight. “I want to make a name for myself [at United] on my own terms.”

Kagawa further elaborated that he had asked for a number with personal meaning, leading to speculation among Japanese media that the player could wear the 8, 26, or 29 he once wore at Cerezo Osaka, or the 23 shirt that brought him fame at Dortmund.

Despite the rigorous travel schedule, the Samurai Blue star still appeared excited after finally putting pen to paper on the move.

“The contract was as long as Id expected from a club [like United],” Kagawa laughed. “When I was at [Old Trafford], I thought about how incredible it would be if I could score there.”

Historic rivalry set as Japan heads to North Korea for the first time in 22 years

There are no noisemakers and no one does the wave, yet football fans in North Korea are passionate in their own way about the team that has become a symbol of national pride.That pride will be at stake Tuesday when North Korea faces Japan at Kim Il Sung Stadium in a much-anticipated World Cup qualifier that promises to be about far more than just football.Four of the North Korean players, including star striker Jong Tae Se, were born into ethnic Korean communities in Japan, and bitterness still runs deep over Japan’s 35-year occupation of Korea, which ended in 1945.

Read the rest of the story: Historic rivalry as Japan heads to NKorea.

Japan’s Miyaichi gets permit to play for Arsenal

Arsenal winger Ryo Miyaichi was granted a British work permit on Tuesday despite a lack of international appearances for Japan and is set to make his debut for the Premier League club.

The 18-year-old Miyaichi was signed in January but spent the rest of last season on loan at Dutch club Feyenoord as he didn’t have official clearance to play for the London club.

Arsenal said Miyaichi was granted a work permit on the grounds of his "exceptional talent.”

"We are absolutely delighted that Ryo has been granted a work permit,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Miyaichi gets permit to play for Arsenal.

Former Japan national defender Matsuda in hospital after collapse

Club officials say former Japan defender Naoki Matsuda collapsed during training after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest.

The 34-year-old Matsuda was unconscious when he arrived at a hospital Tuesday and has been on an artificial cardiopulmonary unit, Matsumoto Yamaga Football Club team officials say.

His condition was “extremely severe,” club president Hiroshi Otsuki said, according to doctors.

Read the rest of the story: Former Japan national defender Matsuda collapses during practice, possibly due to heatstroke.

Japan Ready for the Big Match vs. USA in the Women’s World Cup Final

Japan is gearing up for its first Women’s World Cup final as the national team gets ready to face the US with the hopes of a subdued nation on its shoulders.

Although kick off for Sunday night’s final in Germany will be 3:45 a.m. local time, Monday is a national holiday in Japan so bars and restaurants across the country are staying open to show the game live.

Grateful for some good news after slow months of painful recovery from the March mega-quake and tsunami – not to mention the ongoing nuclear crisis and political deadlock – the women’s team unexpected run to the final has lifted morale in Japan.

Read the rest of the story: Women’s World Cup final: A proud Japan braces for big match vs. USA.

5 Things to Watch for in USA vs. Japan in the Women’s World Cup Final

The womens World Cup title game, between the U.S. and Japan, in Frankfurt, kicks off at 2:45 Eastern time today. Here are five things to watch for in of the most highly anticipated games in U.S. soccer history.1. Can the U.S. Play the Possession Game?U.S. coach Pia Sundhage has indicated that the U.S. will try to play possession soccer against Japan. That means the team will look to control the ball and show off their technical soccer skills – short passing, movement – rather than try to just outrun the defense with long passes downfield. Another benefit of playing possession: the more time you spend chipping the ball to one another, the less time you spend chasing the offensive team all over the field, tiring yourself out.

Read the rest of the story: Women’s World Cup Final: 5 Things to Watch for in USA vs. Japan.

Germany favorite over Japan in quarterfinals

Germany is towering over Japan in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals with a height advantage nearly as big as the home field advantage.The sellout crowd of 26,000 will be cheering for the host team Saturday as the nation has done since the tournament started two weeks ago. And with its penchant for lethal headers, Germany should have a distinct advantage over the much smaller Japanese.The Asian side is renowned for passing combinations and quickness. But when England used a physical game in the last group game, Japan lost 2-0. Germany, too, is expected to step up with bold challenges.

Read the rest of the story: Germany towering favorite over Japan in quarters – World Soccer.