'Most emotional moment of my life': Joy for Japan fans in Qatar after reaching World Cup knockout stage
Japan beat Spain 2-1 to top Group E, knocking Germany out of the World Cup.
DOHA: Japan fan Yuta Kamei was still shaking with excitement when CNA spoke to him minutes after the Samurai Blue's stunning 2-1 victory over Spain on Thursday (Dec 1) that put them in the World Cup knockout stage.
"I had hoped that we could win but ... I knew that Spain was very strong," he said, beaming with pride.
Coming into the game, Luis Enrique's team were top of Group E, unbeaten in their first two games. As per the script, they scored early in the first half, courtesy of Alvaro Morata.
"When Spain scored, I was so sad, and the Spanish (supporter) next to me gave me some snacks," said Mr Kamei.
"In the first half, Spain were very strong with their attacks," added Mr Osamu Kagayama, who watched the game with his wife Shoko at the Khalifa International Stadium.
TEARS IN THE BREAK ROOM
But despite going behind, Japanese fans were hopeful – after all, this was not the first time Japan had fallen behind this World Cup.
Up against four-time world champions Germany in their group opener on Nov 23, Japan came from behind to win 2-1.
Mr Ryoma Yoshii watched the Germany match on a laptop in his office's break room back in Japan. He was in tears after the game, and asked his boss for time off so he could fly to Qatar, he said.
"(He said) the World Cup is once every four years, please enjoy it. Before I left Japan, my co-workers and boss and seniors said: 'Please enjoy, and create a new history for Japanese football'," he said.
Then came a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, which plunged Japan's hopes of progressing into uncertainty.
"Somehow, we couldn't demonstrate our actual power," said Mr Yoshii.
"We don't know why we lost to Costa Rica, but players and fans never gave up," added Mr Kamei.
The loss meant that Japan had come into the game with Spain needing an unlikely win to progress. Ranked seventh in the world, Spain were among the favourites to win the World Cup.
With Japan 1-0 down at half time, Japan manager Moriyasu threw on Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma. Doan netted the equaliser, while Mitoma provided the assist for Ao Tanaka's eventual winner.
"I am proud of this team ... They never gave up," said Mr Kamei.
Japan's second goal was mired in controversy, after the ball looked as if it had crossed the byline prior to Mitoma's cross, only for VAR rule that it hadn’t after a lengthy wait, and Tanaka's goal stood.
"I couldn't hold back my emotions, (I was) excited ... I apologised (to the Spanish fan) next to me for shouting," recalled Mr Yoshii.
"But she was so very kind. (And told me that) screaming was very okay."
"I think he (Moriyasu) is god," said Mr Kamei, who had flown in just for the game and is due to depart from Doha at 6am local time.
"Watching a World Cup game is my dream ... This may be the most emotional moment of my life."
But the job was not done. Moriyasu said before the tournament that the goal for Japan was to get beyond the round of 16, something Japan have never done.
"This is the start of a new Japanese history," added Mr Yoshii. "We must concentrate on the next game against Croatia ... Today I want Japanese players to enjoy the win, but from tomorrow, focus on the next match."
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