AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — The “Agony of Doha” got here 29 years in the past, and Hajime Moriyasu skilled it first-hand as a midfielder on Japan’s nationwide soccer staff.
He’s now the coach, and he’s made amends.
Japan gained its World Cup group on Thursday after beating 2010 champion Spain 2-1 on the Khalifa Worldwide Stadium. Final week, the staff defeated 2014 champion Germany by the identical rating on the similar venue.
As time was winding down in opposition to Spain, Moriyasu was desirous about that sport in Qatar in opposition to Iraq in 1993 that value the staff a spot within the subsequent 12 months’s event.
“About one minute earlier than the top,” Moriyasu mentioned after the win over Spain, “I remembered the tragedy in Doha.”
Main 2-1 within the staff’s ultimate qualifier and realizing one purpose for the opposition would spell the top, Japan conceded in stoppage time. Their World Cup hopes have been dashed, and so was Moriyasu’s possibilities of enjoying on the largest soccer event on this planet.
This time it was completely different. This time the protection held it collectively. This time the 54-year-old Moriyasu received his Hollywood ending by successful Group E.
“I might really feel that the occasions have modified,” Moriyasu mentioned, praising his staff’s aggressive defending. “They’re enjoying a brand new form of soccer, that’s how I felt.”
Japan’s resistance on the sphere was typified by 34-year-old captain Maya Yoshida. The veteran central defender reacted quickest when a unfastened ball within the ninetieth minute bounced within the goalmouth, up in entrance of a gaping empty internet, after goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda blocked a shot by Jordi Alba.
Yoshida twisted his physique to beat Marco Asensio to the ball and clear the hazard. When Spain ahead Dani Olmo took management seconds later, Gonda blocked his shot with a smothering dive.
On the offensive aspect, Japan scored within the forty eighth and 51st minutes. In opposition to Germany, the targets got here within the seventy fifth and 83rd.
“In 10 minutes we have been dismantled,” Spain coach Luis Enrique mentioned.
Up subsequent is Croatia, a staff that reached the ultimate 4 years in the past in Russia. One other victory on Monday would put Japan within the World Cup quarterfinals for the primary time.
“We,” the coach mentioned, “are gifting this win to the folks of Japan.”
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