It seems that soccer miracles can strike two times. In fast succession, and in the similar position. After their staff’s surprise defeat to Costa Rica on the weekend, many Japanese enthusiasts have been bracing for an early go out from the Qatar World Cup by the hands of Spain on Thursday.
Instead, the Khalifa International Stadium was once the backdrop to some other strange night time for Japanese soccer, because the Samurai Blue beat the 2010 international champions 2–1 to ship them into the ultimate 16 and a gathering with the 2018 runners-up, Croatia. Victory in that tournament would take Japan to the World Cup quarter-finals for the primary time.
“Doha delights again!” one newspaper headlined its on-line version, evoking reminiscences of what the media classified the “Miracle of Doha” after Japan’s win over Germany.
Much of the post-match punditry targeted on Japan’s winner, after the ball was once judged via the VAR to have stayed in via a fragment prior to Kaoru Mitoma crossed it for Ao Tanaka to package deal house, sparking wild celebrations in Doha and Tokyo.
The Daily Sports stated Japan had “come within a millimetre” of exiting the match. “Luck was on Japan’s side,” stated the tabloid. Tokyo Sports, in the meantime, famous that the staff had once more turn into the controversy of the match, days after their giant-killing 2-1 win in opposition to Germany, who didn’t get out in their World Cup crew degree for the second one time in a row.
“The foreign media didn’t expect Japan to do well,” the paper stated. “But they’re all getting excited now, including the BBC.”
The VAR controversy was once additionally the controversy of social media, with one account joking that it had spawned a new design for Japan’s national flag,
While Japanese enthusiasts have lengthy been praised for tidying up stadiums all over the world, on Thursday there was once as a lot on-line love for the avid gamers.
“Not sure I’ve ever been more pleased for any side in any sport,” Seth Levine stated in a message to the Guardian’s are living weblog. “Love the way they play. No s**t-housery. No histrionics. To install Brilliant fans. Excellent tactically. Manager wears a charcoal three-piece suit. What’s not to love?
Ben Mabley, who commentates in Japan on Premier League football, had a message for those who doubted Japan’s footballing pedigree. “Ever since I came to Japan, I’ve heard people say that Japan doesn’t have much of a football history. I don’t want to hear that ever again!” he tweeted in Japanese. “An amazing history is unfolding right before your eyes! Congratulations!”
Ken Kawakita, who watched the tournament at house in Yokohama, stated he had nearly given up hope after Japan’s deficient first part. “Spain looked better in every way, but Japan were a completely different team in the second half,” he stated.
“I realized that football is as much about the players’ mentality as their footballing ability. I couldn’t believe the transformation in the second half. It’s been a week-long rollercoaster ride. We were elated after Germany, then in despair after Costa Rica. Who knows what’s going to happen next? Croatia aren’t as good as they were four years ago, but I’m trying not to get carried away.”
Not even the pre-dawn kick-off could deter fans who braved the cold to watch the match together on giant screens, or set their alarms to follow the game from their futons, knowing that they would have little or no time to snooze before getting ready for work.
Fans chanting “Nippon! Nippon!” celebrated prior to break of day at the well-known scramble crossing in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, and later exchanged high-fives with bleary-eyed commuters pouring out of the teach station.
“I never thought Japan would finish top of their group. Thank you Japan! I love you guys,” said 19-year-old fan Yusei Sato.
Takuya Kudo, 23, burst into tears as soon as the final whistle blew. “I’m just so happy,” he said. “Honestly, I never thought Japan would do this well. I’m just really thrilled.”
“Samurai Blue” and “Come-from-behind victory” were trending on Twitter, while one user posted a cartoon of a roaring Japanese dragon flanked by those from a lucky Spain, who also qualified from Group E, and clearly bewildered Germany.
The prime minister, Fumio Kishida, described the victory as “historic”, adding that he had called the team’s coach, Hajime Moriyasu, and the president of the Japan Football Association, Kozo Tashima, to offer his congratulations.
“I told them they gave the Japanese people courage and energy,” Kishida said on Twitter. “We are looking forward to the last 16. Fight on, Japan!”
Moriyasu, who had been criticized for his tactics in the 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, thanked Japan’s traveling fans and the many more back home who had got up in the middle of the night to watch his team. “This victory is a present for the folks of Japan,” he stated.