PICTURES

Football: Honda drives Japan comeback in Dutch draw

Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda (centre) celebrates after scoring against the Netherlands on Nov 16, 2013 during a World Cup 2014 friendly football match at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda (centre) celebrates after scoring against the Netherlands on Nov 16, 2013 during a World Cup 2014 friendly football match at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan's Keisuke Honda (right) fights for the ball with Rafael van der Vaart of the Netherlands during their international friendly soccer match in Genk on Nov 16, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Japan's Keisuke Honda (right) fights for the ball with Rafael van der Vaart of the Netherlands during their international friendly soccer match in Genk on Nov 16, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda (left) fights for the ball with Dutch forward Siem de Jongq (right) on Nov 16, 2013 during a World Cup 2014 friendly football match at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda (left) fights for the ball with Dutch forward Siem de Jongq (right) on Nov 16, 2013 during a World Cup 2014 friendly football match at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda (left) fights for the ball with Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart (right) on Nov 16, 2013 during a World Cup 2014 friendly football match at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda (left) fights for the ball with Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart (right) on Nov 16, 2013 during a World Cup 2014 friendly football match at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda controls the ball on Nov 16, 2013 before a World Cup 2014 friendly football match against the Netherlands at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda controls the ball on Nov 16, 2013 before a World Cup 2014 friendly football match against the Netherlands at the Cristal Arena in Genk. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda celebrates on Nov 16, 2013, after a World Cup 2014 friendly football match against the Netherlands at the Cristal Arena in Genk. An inspirational Keisuke Honda steered Japan from two goals down to a creditable 2-2 draw
Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda celebrates on Nov 16, 2013, after a World Cup 2014 friendly football match against the Netherlands at the Cristal Arena in Genk. An inspirational Keisuke Honda steered Japan from two goals down to a creditable 2-2 draw with the Netherlands in a friendly international in Genk, Belgium, on Saturday. -- PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - An inspirational Keisuke Honda steered Japan from two goals down to a creditable 2-2 draw with the Netherlands in a friendly international in Genk, Belgium, on Saturday.

Honda's dominant midfield performance, capped by a goal, allowed Japan to command much of the second half and they came close to winning, having been 2-0 down after the first 40 minutes of the match at the Cristal Arena.

Honda frequently pushed forward to set up chances for his side as they made clear their potential for next year's World Cup finals in Brazil, fighting back against the highly-rated Dutch.

The Dutch took the lead after 12 minutes of the game, which had a lunchtime kick-off to suit Japanese television schedules.

A defensive error from Atsuto Uchida set up Rafael van der Vaart, who chipped the ball over goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

Louis van Gaal's team, who went into the game unbeaten in the last 15 outings, looked to be heading for a comfortable win when Arjen Robben, captain in place of the injured Robin van Persie, scored a second goal in the 39th minute.

It was a trademark curling shot from the right-hand side as the Bayern Munich winger cut inside after a crossfield pass from Van der Vaart.

Japan, who play Belgium in their next World Cup warm-up on Tuesday, pulled one back a minute before half-time after a clever pass from Makoto Hasebe set up Yuya Osoko for his third goal in five international appearances.

The goal seemingly galvanised the Japanese, who took control almost from the start of the second half with Honda striking the crossbar in the 52nd minute before equalising eight minutes later as he struck with a clever ball played back into his path by Osoko.

Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen saved from substitute Shinji Kagawa in the 67th minute and then watched with obvious relief as Yoichiro Kakitani went just wide in the 78th minute.