TOKYO - Japanese football fans were
crushed with their team's penalty shootout loss to Paraguay
but grateful for the Blue Samurai's surprise run to reach the
knockout round of the World Cup.
"I'm very disappointed, but I thank our team who let us
hope and dream," 27-year-old Ryosuke Takashita said at a Tokyo
sports bar, where more than 500 fans cheered their national
team throughout the scoreless 120 minutes.
The second-round match at Ellis Park ended goalless after
extra time and the South Americans netted a perfect five
penalties while Japan's Yuichi Komano hit the bar with his
team's third shot.
"At the beginning of the World Cup, nobody, even us,
expected much from them, but they advanced to the second round
to delight us," 24-year-old supporter Fumiya Inaba told
"I want to say thank you to them."
Japan, who carried the hopes of Asia as the region's sole
remaining team, reached the tournament's knockout round for
only the second time and the first on foreign soil.
Although their running into space repeatedly stretched the
Paraguay defence, they were unable to reprise the flowing
attacks that had torn Denmark apart in their group decider.
"The Japanese players were not as agile as they were in
previous games. But the way they courageously battled with
Paraguay until the bitter end deserves the nickname Blue
Samurai," the Yomiuri newspaper wrote.
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