He’s one of the most in-demand players in Europe, plays as an attacking talent for Japan and proved decisive in their 3-2 quarter-final win over hosts Qatar at the Asian Cup.
And his name is not Keisuke Honda.
Japan relied heavily on Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa to see off the stubborn Qataris in a pulsating quarter-final, as the diminutive playmaker scored twice and set up the winner for Masahiko Inoha in a come-from-behind victory.
The Samurai Blue were forced to dig deep after defender Maya Yoshida was harshly dismissed in front of a partisan Qatari crowd, and Togel Online Kagawa proved the difference in a virtuoso display.
But while the youngster was impressing in front of a global audience, what of Keisuke Honda, the player allegedly being chased by a host of English Premier League clubs?
Honda has had a quiet tournament to date, missing the group stage thrashing of Saudi Arabia through injury amid rumours he had fallen out with new coach Alberto Zaccheroni.
And having only scored once in the tournament so far – and that goal arrived from the penalty spot – Honda will be desperate to fire his team past arch-rivals South Korea and into the final.
Honda steps up to the penalty spot
Japan’s semi-final clash with South Korea is one of the most anticipated games of the tournament, with the winner set to meet either Australia or Uzbekistan in the final.
The Samurai Blue met South Korea three times in 2010, losing twice and drawing once, and they’ll be desperate to reach their first Asian Cup final since winning the tournament in Beijing in 2004.
Japan fans will no doubt hope CSKA Moscow star Honda can use some of his big-match experience to steer his side into the showpiece event, but it will be a far from simple task against a fired-up South Korea.
With Park Ji-Sung enjoying an outstanding tournament for the Taeguk Warriors, only one will be left standing as two of Asian football’s biggest names go head-to-head in an Asian Cup semi-final cracker.
Japan conceded a soft equaliser just seconds away from an extra-time win over arch-rivals South Korea in their semi-final, only for goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to stand tall as he saved the Taeguk Warriors’ first two penalties in a one-sided shoot-out victory.
Now Australia are all that stands between Japan and a record fourth Asian Cup crown, although the Socceroos could prove a formidable opponent after thrashing Uzbekistan 6-0 en route to a Khalifa Stadium showdown.
That’s especially the case now that Japan’s quarter-final hero Shinji Kagawa has been ruled out through injury, with the Samurai Blue set to miss one of their most effective attacking outlets.
Nagoya Grampus forward Jungo Fujimoto or Urawa Reds playmaker Yosuke Kashiwagi are potential replacements for coach Alberto Zaccheroni, although he could once again rely heavily on CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda – who has already been nominated for the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
Honda missed a penalty in normal time during the dramatic win over South Korea – substitute Hajime Hosogai slammed home the rebound – and the highly-rated front man will be eager to improve on the big stage, with a host of European giants reputedly clamouring for his signature.
Japan will need to overcome the strength and size of an Australian side desperate to claim a first ever Asian crown in what is only their second appearance in the tournament.
Speed versus strength, skill versus size – it’s shaping up to be a fascinating Asian Cup final, and one that Samurai Blue fans everywhere are hoping will confirm their status as Asia’s premier side.