Keisuke Honda eyes Tokyo 2020 as overage player

The Japanese midfielder had announced his retirement after the World Cup, but has changed his mind

Keisuke Honda will continue playing international football after announcing his intention to compete at Tokyo 2020.

The attacking midfielder was expected to quit after Japan lost to Belgium at the recent World Cup.

But the draw of a home Olympic Games has proven too strong.

"I want a goal that would let me compete against the world. I think it's fate that there is an Olympics in two years."

'Concluding my career'

Honda played in three World Cups for Japan, including the recent edition in Russia.

The 'Samurai Blue' lost in the last 16 in heartbreaking fashion as Belgium came from two goals down to triumph 3–2 with a last-minute winner.

Honda, who has been capped 98 times, said after the game: "I am concluding my career with the national team."

Keisuke Honda attempting a shot against Belgium
Keisuke Honda attempting a shot against BelgiumKeisuke Honda attempting a shot against Belgium

"I am happy, because we have a lot of good young players, and now it is their turn to write the history of Japanese football," he said then.

There were even reports that he would end his career, having come to the end of his club contract with Mexican team Pachuca.

However, the 32-year-old will go on.

Challenge

Speaking on Japanese television from a holiday in the Bahamas, Honda said his new aim was driven by a desire to keep testing himself.

"I want to always be a challenger. I have to aim for the world's best.

"There's not much to aim for — the World Cup is already gone, but the Olympics are there."

Keisuke Honda at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
Keisuke Honda at the 2018 Fifa World CupKeisuke Honda at the 2018 Fifa World Cup

Honda will be 34 by the time of the Tokyo 2020 football tournament.

Each team can only name three players over the age of 23, and he's expected to face tough competition.

Teammate Yuto Nagatomo has already declared his intention to play at the Games.

"I think anyone who played for Japan in this World Cup would want to play in the Olympics," Honda said.

"I will try to train myself for two more years to achieve this goal."

Second Games

Honda is no stranger to playing at an Olympic Games.

If selected as one of three overage players, it would be his second Olympics.

He represented Japan at Beijing 2008 aged 22.

But the team lost all three games and only scored one goal.

Honda is currently without a club, but has been linked with a move to Melbourne Victory in Australia.

Enjoyed this story? Share it with your friends!