In the Asian World Cup, finally an Asian team made it to the knockouts as Japan surprised themselves and the football world to slay Spain and Germany and move up as the Group E table topper.
Though the world still has its doubts about whether Kaoru Mitomahad overran the ball for Ao Tanaka’s winning goal, the polite Japanese were happy with the referee’s verdict here.
“For the goal, we think we made it happen as we worked hard to win the game. If the current technology decided it was out, it would have been a goal kick,” coach Hajime Moriyasu cheekily said after the match. “We respect the referee, and we were ready to accept his decision. Since he decided on the goal, we certainly accepted that we scored the goal.”
Tanaka, however, had thought the ball had run out.
“From the angle I was looking at it from it looked like it was clearly partly over the line, but all I was thinking about in that moment was getting the ball in the net. While we were waiting for VAR, I was wondering if maybe it had gone out of play. But even if the goal had been disallowed, I don’t think we’d have been too discouraged. The fact that we got the goal was thanks to Mitoma, and the whole team of course. It helped us win the match in the end, so it’s a good job,” the goal-scorer said.
But Japan was happy to take its win and keep Asian hopes alive in this World Cup. “It was a game against the strongest team in the world. We definitely expected a very tough and difficult game, and it was a very tough game indeed. Our players made use of everything they had and played patiently until the very end. We owe this win to our supporters and the nation of Japan,” Moriyasu said.
Wins over European powerhouses Spain and Germany augur well for the Blue Samurais ahead of their pre-quarterfinals clash with Croatia. “The fact that we beat Germany and Spain, two of the top teams in the world will become a great source of confidence. There’s still so much we must learn, but we proved that Asia and Japan can keep winning in a global competition,” said the proud coach.