Keisuke Honda believes more of his Japan teammates need to represent the world's top clubs after the Samurai Blue's 2-1 loss to Mexico completed a winless FIFA Confederations Cup showing.
Two goals from Javier Hernandez were enough for El Tri to seal a 2-1 win in the Group A encounter, with the Mexicans holding on despite Shinji Okazaki's late strike, and Honda believes that it is imperative for his compatriots to target roles in big clubs if the national side is to improve amid speculation mounting that he may be close to signing for AC Milan.
"Italy only had two days off and they beat us, so you need that sort of mental strength to win in any condition," Honda told reporters after the game. "The level of the club you play for influences that strength, so it's very important to play at higher-level clubs in stronger leagues.
"It's a very difficult problem [to improve Japan's overall play], but there are countries with smaller players who manage to defend well, so if we can improve our abilities I think we can do the same."
Honda, who has decided not to renew his contract with his current employers CSKA Moscow, alerting the likes of the Rossoneri, has enjoyed a successful time in Russia's top flight of late with his side winning the league and cup double last season.
The former VVV Venlo man stressed that Japan must look to learn from the futile Confederations Cup campaign, stating that his team lost too many of the individual battles on the pitch.
"If there's a difference between us and Mexico, it's that when the game slowed down you could see the difference in individual strength," Honda said. "We showed plenty of evidence that we can play in an organized way, but at the very end when we have a chance to decide the match we weren't able to create the big plays.
"Especially when Mexico were slow to drop back, we couldn't press forward with three or four players."
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