Japan FA President proud of Samurai Blue
Rostov-On-Don: Japan Football Association President Kohzo Tashima hailed the Samurai Blue spirit despite a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Belgium in the Round of 16 at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Monday.
Goals from Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui handed Japan a 2-0 lead in the second half at Rostov Arena but Belgium hit back with three goals, including a 94th-minute winner that knocked out the last Asian side remaining at this FIFA World Cup.
Although Japan failed to get past the last 16 once again – they also came up short in 2002 and 2010 – Tashima gushed with praise for Akira Nishino’s men, who had the Belgians sweating and were on the cusp of reaching their nation’s first-ever FIFA World Cup quarter-final.
Tashima said these Samurai Blue overcame the odds to make their mark in the nation’s footballing history, one that will change the future course of the team.
“I just want to thank the players and coaching staff for their courage,” Tashima said. “They did us proud. We knew all long it was not going to be easy but the players tried to do something about it. They fought the Japanese way, with Japanese pride.
“Over the course of 90 minutes, we lost 3-2 and the result is something we have to accept but we can go home with our heads held up high. I think these players overturned some of the preconceived notions about the Japanese team and it’s something we have to carry on.”
“This game will be a chapter in our nation’s history, a turning point, and I want to thank the team for delivering such a performance.”
Tashima, in particular, credited Nishino for turning Japan around in such a short space of time since taking over for Vahid Halilhodzic only in April. Nishino had just three warm-up friendlies ahead of Japan’s opening Group H game against Colombia, which they won 2-1.
“Since Nishino-san took over, we supported him in every way possible and I think that led to the victory in the Colombia game, which got us as far we did,” Tashima said of the former AFC Champions League-winning manager.
“How we were perceived before the tournament did not matter to us. Nishino-san kept his focus solely on the first three games and managed to execute the gameplan we had in place.”
“We may have failed to get past the Round of 16 again, but I thought our performance was outstanding. We may be ranked 61st right now, but goals like winning the World Cup or cracking the top 10 is no longer just a dream because of this match.”
“(Nishino) was brilliant. I’m glad we trusted with him the coaching job.”
Photos: FIFA via Getty Images