The Miracle of Doha': a call to public holiday when Japan's Blue Samurai put German lives on the line

Victory in their World Cup opener sparked street celebrations and washed away painful memories in Doha of failing to qualify for the US

Japan's shock victory over Germany in Qatar on Wednesday sparked late-night celebrations and calls to mark Samurai Blue's landmark feat in their 2022 World Cup opener with a public holiday.

The clock was closing in on midnight when Takuma Asano fired Japan's winner into the roof of the net at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha – a result that seemed impossible after a poor first half for Japan, playing in their seventh successive World Cup.

For fans over a certain age, this 2-1 victory can wash away painful memories of another fateful game in Doha nearly three decades ago. It was there that Japan came within minutes of qualifying for their first World Cup, only to qualify for the US in 1994 with a late equalizer by their opponents Iraq.

Wednesday's victory sparked impromptu celebrations at Shibuya's famous scrambling junction and called for the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, to follow Saudi Arabia's example by declaring a public holiday.

Yui Sasaki, an office worker in Tokyo, was among the hundreds of fans who watched the match in a public viewing area in the capital. Fighting back tears, Sasaki told the Asahi Shimbun: "To be honest, before the match I thought it would take a miracle for Japan to win."

Kishida invited derision on social media after a tweet appeared on his official account during the match in which he mentioned his visit the previous day to the imperial palace. "I thank you for a bountiful harvest and pray for the prosperity of the imperial family and the peace of the nation," he wrote. Responses from social media users: why don't you watch football?

But Kishida, whose approval ratings are at record lows over his party's ties to the controversial Unification church, managed to capture the national mood on Thursday morning. "I watched the game on TV... it was an amazing win," he told reporters. "I hope they can keep going and reach the knockout stage."

Among Japanese public figures who congratulated the team on Twitter was tennis player Kei Nishikori, who only put up a row of eight Hinomaru flags.

The victory made headlines in newspapers and tabloids, with some noting that the suffering of 29 years ago had been replaced in the national consciousness by the "Miracle of Doha".

Under headlines marking Japan's "important" and "stunning" win over the four-time World Cup winners, media reports hailed coach Hajime Moriyasu - a member of the team whose dreams had been shattered in Doha 29 years earlier - whose five and a half-time changes proved a genius.

Social media lit up with praise for Asano, who plays for German Bundesliga club VfL Bochum, and another Japanese goalscorer, Ritsu Doan, who also plays his club football in Germany with SC Freiburg.

Some credited Japan's win to Taiyo, a river otter at a Tokyo aquarium who had predicted the result the day before the game after placing a miniature ball in the blue bucket marked with the Japanese flag, crossing out the red one with the German flag and the yellow one labeled "draw". , according to Kyodo news agency.

Yujiro Nakao, a Tokyo businessman and lifelong supporter of Samurai Blue, said the team had shown courage by refusing to give up after a "desperate" first half. "In the second half, they changed tactics and started to attack more," said Nakao, who was watching the match at home with his wife.

“Moriyasu has been criticized a lot in the past, but he's shown that he can be a good strategist. I predict – I hope – that we can beat Costa Rica and draw against Spain. I will cheer them on.”

Misae Minami, a teacher in Osaka, said she felt that Japan would prove the experts wrong. “Most people hope that Germany will win, but I hope because the young Japanese players have improved dramatically, and some of them are playing for German clubs. You can see that our players are getting stronger mentally and physically because they refused to give up even after Germany scored the first goal."

Japan are now dreaming of a place in the last 16 for the fourth time, and a place in the quarter-finals for the first time. While Germany's game kicks off at 22:00 local time on Wednesday, the time difference will be better for Japanese fans when their team takes on Costa Rica on Sunday night.

“I can't wait for the next match,” said Minami. "We're going to win that one too!" This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

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