DOHA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) — Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said Monday that even though his side lost in the penalty shootout against Croatia in the World Cup last-16, they should be proud of starting a new era of Japanese football.
“We couldn’t break through the round of 16 or see a new landscape, but we beat Germany and Spain (in the group stage), who were World Cup champions,” he said.
Japan took the lead on the stroke of halftime with a close-range finish from Daizen Maeda, but with Ivan Perisic equalizing 10 minutes into the second half, there were few chances in the rest of the 90 minutes or in extra time.
“If you see the game as a whole, we created chances and had a chance to win, but sometimes the final pass was intercepted, and in extra time, we lost the ball too much,” he said.
Takumi Minamino, Kauru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida then struck tame penalties which were comfortably saved by Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic.
“We could not win on the penalties and we have to accept this result, but I don’t think we succumbed to pressure. The goalkeeper (Livakovic) was great,” said Moriyasu.
“The Japanese players played 120 brave minutes and the players who took the penalties were also courageous.
“Of course we wanted to win, it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is and it doesn’t negate the players’ efforts,” he insisted.
Although this was the fourth time Japan fell in the World Cup round of 16, Moriyasu said he told his players after the game that they have accomplished something important.
“The players can be confident that they can play on the world stage and they showed they can play in the World Cup. I think Japanese football can continue to grow.”
“We can play against the world and beat the world and the players have shown a new era of Japanese football,” he commented.
“We need to improve step by step, we can’t become superheroes in one go,” concluded Moriyasu.