'We have to keep going': Japan buoyed by Germany victory, but not getting carried away
CNA's Matthew Mohan spoke to a number of Japanese players ahead of their match with Costa Rica on Sunday (Nov 27).
DOHA: Their historic 2-1 triumph over Germany may have sent shockwaves reverberating across the footballing world, but Japan are refusing to get carried away.
Speaking to CNA after a training session on Friday (Nov 25), various Samurai Blue players reiterated that the job is far from done.
Japan will face Costa Rica on Sunday (Nov 27), and a win, coupled with anything other than a Germany victory against Spain, could see Hajime Moriyasu's men progress to the last 16 for the fourth time in their history.
"The mood is really positive, but we're not completely relieved. Because we still have nothing - we still haven't qualified," said goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt.
At the training session, players were put through their paces, and spirits looked high among Moriyasu's men despite the blazing midday sun.
"Of course we feel good. I also feel good because we won against Germany," added defender Ko Itakura.
"I knew that Germany is high quality (with) good players. But we did it, and I believe in myself."
Itakura made his World Cup debut in the win against Germany on Wednesday (Nov 23), and his raking long ball found substitute Takuma Asano who scored the winner.
NOTHING HAS CHANGED
Players also emphasised that they are now looking ahead to the Costa Rica game rather than dwelling on the glory of the Germany triumph.
"We are happy but ... already focused on the next game against Costa Rica. Costa Rica will also be a difficult game," explained Itakura, who joined Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer transfer window.
Costa Rica were hammered 7-0 by Spain in their opener and currently sit bottom of Group E. Japan on the other hand, are second, with the top two teams progressing to the next round.
Japan have never lost to Costa Rica, and sit 24th in the world rankings, seven ahead of their opponents.
"The next game will be really important for us. If we lose, then the win against Germany will be (for) nothing so we're really focused on it," said Schmidt, who plays in Belgium for top tier side Sint-Truiden.
Head coach Moriyasu had previously said that the goal for Japan is to get to the quarterfinals. The only Asian team to have achieved that is South Korea, who finished fourth in 2002.
Japan reached the knockout stages at the 2002 World Cup and most recently in 2018, but were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by Belgium after going 2-0 up only to lose 3-2.
"Nothing (has) changed. Before beating Germany, we weren't the worst team in the world. And now we aren't the best team in the world," said midfielder Takefusa Kubo, who started the game.
"It is the same. We have to keep this mentality, Every game is the same motivation, same energy."
And it is important not to be complacent, said the Real Sociedad winger.
"We have to keep going because the tournament is so long," added Kubo. "The most important thing is how you finish the tournament."
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