It seems that soccer miracles can strike twice. In fast succession, and in the identical place. After their group’s shock defeat to Costa Rica on Sunday, many Japanese followers had been braced for an early exit from the Qatar World Cup by the hands of Spain.
As an alternative, Khalifa Worldwide Stadium was the backdrop to a different extraordinary evening for Japanese soccer, as Samurai Blue beat the 2010 world champions 2-1 to ship them by way of to the final 16 and a gathering with 2018 runners-up Croatia. Victory in that match would take Japan to the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the primary time.
“Doha enjoys once more!” one newspaper headlined its on-line version, evoking recollections of what the media known as the “Miracle of Doha” after Japan’s win over Germany.
A lot of the post-match pundits centered on Japan’s winner, after the ball was deemed by VAR to have stayed a fraction earlier than Kaoru Mitoma handed it for Ao Tanaka to bundle residence, sparking wild celebrations in Doha and Tokyo.
Each day Sports activities stated Japan had “got here inside a millimetre” of exiting the event. “Luck was on Japan’s aspect,” the tabloid stated. Tokyo Sports activities, in the meantime, famous that the group had as soon as once more turn into the speak of the event, days after their shock 2-1 win in opposition to Germany, who did not get out of their World Cup group stage for the second consecutive event.
“International media didn’t anticipate Japan to do properly,” the newspaper stated. “However they’re getting excited now, together with the BBC.”
The VAR controversy was additionally the speak of social media, with one account joking that it had created one new design for the nationwide flag of Japan.
Whereas Japanese followers have lengthy been hailed for clear up arenas world wide, on Thursday there was simply as a lot love on-line for the gamers.
“Unsure I’ve ever been extra happy for any aspect in any sport,” Seth Levine stated in a message to the Guardian’s reside weblog. “Love the way in which they play. No sh**t home. No histrionics. Sensible followers. Wonderful tactically. The supervisor wears a picket three piece go well with. What’s to not love?”
Ben Mabley, who commentates in Japan on Premier League soccer, had a message for many who doubted Japan’s soccer pedigree. “Ever since I got here to Japan, I’ve heard folks say that Japan would not have a lot soccer historical past. I by no means wish to hear that once more!” he tweeted in Japanese. “A tremendous story is unfolding proper earlier than your eyes! Congratulations!”
Ken Kawakita, who watched the sport at residence in Yokohama, stated he had virtually given up hope after Japan’s poor first half. “Spain seemed higher in each approach, however Japan had been a very completely different group within the second half,” he stated.
“I noticed that soccer is as a lot in regards to the mentality of the gamers as their soccer capability. I could not imagine the change within the second half. It has been a roller-coaster week. We had been excited after Germany, then in despair after Costa Rica. Who is aware of what’s going to occur subsequent? Croatia are inferior to they had been 4 years in the past, however I am attempting to not get carried away.”
Even the pre-dawn kick-off could not deter followers who braved the chilly to observe the sport collectively on large screens, or set their alarms to comply with the sport from their futons, figuring out they’d have little or no time to snooze earlier than they did prepared for work.
The followers chant “Nippon! Nippon!” celebrated earlier than dawn on the well-known scramble crossing in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, later exchanging high-fives with bleary-eyed commuters pouring out of the prepare station.
“I by no means thought Japan would end on the high of their group. Thanks, Japan! I like you,” stated 19-year-old fan Yusei Sato.
Takuya Kudo, 23, burst into tears as quickly as the ultimate whistle went. “I am simply so completely happy,” he stated. “Actually, I by no means thought Japan would do that properly. I am simply actually completely happy.”
“Samurai Blue” and “Come-from-behind victory” had been trending on Twitter, whereas one person posted a cartoon of a Roaring Japanese Dragon flanked by these of a fortunate Spain, who additionally certified from Group E, clearly confused Germany.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka Posted a manga-style depiction of the Japanese group, whereas Elon Musk tweeted: “Congratulations, Japan!”
The prime minister, Fumio Kishida, described the victory as “historic” and added that he had known as the group’s coach, Hajime Moriyasu, and the president of the Japan Soccer Affiliation, Kozo Tashima, to supply their congratulations. “I instructed them they gave the Japanese folks braveness and vitality,” Kishida stated on Twitter. “We’re wanting ahead to the final sixteen. Struggle on, Japan!”
Moriyasu, who had been criticized for his techniques within the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, thanked Japan’s touring followers and the various extra at residence who had gotten up in the midst of the evening to observe his group. “This victory is a present to the folks of Japan,” he stated.
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