Doha tragedy turns to triumph

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Supporters erupt at a viewing party in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Friday morning when Japan scored the go-ahead goal against Spain in Doha.

Excitement echoed across Japan on Friday morning after Samurai Blue’s stunning victory against Spain at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The Hajime Moriyasu-led side pulled off its second major upset of the tournament to advance to the knockout phase as the winners of Group E.

Fans in the stands embraced each other and applauded the players when the final whistle went at the Khalifa International Stadium, where Japan defeated powerhouse Germany in their first group game last week.

“Tragedy has been replaced by triumph,” a 32-year-old fan said, recalling the 1993 game dubbed the “Agony of Doha” that prevented Japan from qualifying for the ’94 World Cup. “This is the best day of my life.”

Even though the game kicked off at 4 a.m. in Japan, Samurai Blue fans were out in full force at viewing venues across the country. About 420 supporters decked out in Japan shirts watched the game at a viewing event near Tokyo Tower in the capital. The crowd erupted at the final whistle, with some supporters wiping away tears of joy.

“Now that Japan’s victory has completely wiped away my sleepiness, I’m going to go to work,” a fan said.

Meanwhile, at the iconic scramble crossing in front of Shibuya Station, fans shouted “Nippon! Nippon!” and high-fived each other. The crowds were still going strong at 7 a.m., more than an hour after the game.