Japan have not only tasted victory on the football pitch but they're winning hearts off it after a classy act at the World Cup in Qatar that has taken fans by storm. Japan shocked the football world with an extraordinary upset victory over powerhouses Germany in their opening game, with goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano earning an incredible 2-1 comeback victory.
Proving yet again that they are one of the classiest teams in world sport, the Japanese players proceeded to clean their dressing room within an inch of its life, after the victory against Germany. The 'Samurai Blue' fans had already made a name for themselves earlier in Qatar, after being spotted cleaning up the mess created by other supporters inside the stadiums.
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In videos and images shared on social media after Japan's win against Germany, Qatari influencer Omar Al-Farooq reacted with shock at the Japanese fans' gesture. "Someone convince me that this is normal," Farooq said on his video.
He approached the fans and asked why they were being so generous after a game in which there team wasn't even playing.
"We are Japanese and we do not leave rubbish behind us and we respect the place," one fan said.
— ESPN (@espn) November 23, 2022
Not to be outdone, Japan's players followed suit in a brilliant show of respect the tournament hosts in Qatar, after full-time in the Germany game. Images after the final whistle showed a spotless Japanese change room with everything packed up and neatly assembled next to a treatment table.
The Japanese squad had even left a number of origami cranes on the table as a way of saying 'thanks' to their hosts. The wonderful gesture from Japan's World Cup squad has taken the football world by storm, with fans praising the players and staff on social media.
This is how Japan left their dressing room after their historic win over Germany yesterday.
They also left behind 11 origami cranes, a symbol of honour ❤️🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/yze7pt76Oc
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 24, 2022
Japan left their dressing room spotless after the incredible World Cup win over Germany. Brilliant! 👏🏻🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/4UR4YVAugn
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) November 23, 2022
Fans and players alike, it’s all class from Japan 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/cIxAcbmLP3
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 24, 2022
This is what happens when your values are more than just words on a page.
Others view this as extra effort, more work, or a tedious chore. To the people of Japan? This is just what you do.
They know what they’re about. And that has real power.
Pure class. pic.twitter.com/bser9B5n1L
— Mitch (@MitchCK_) November 24, 2022
The Japanese team is gaining a reputation for such classy acts of generosity and respect after leaving their change room in mint condition with a 'thank you' note in Russian after being knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by Belgium. The Samurai Blue also did the same at the 2019 Asian Cup, where they left a parting message of thanks in Japanese, English and Arabic.
Throwback when Japan left their dressing room in spotless condition and left a "Thank You" note in Russian after being eliminated from the World Cup by Belgium. 😍
An example for everyone! 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/Mgb9d8IgIE
— Football Factly (@FootballFactly) July 15, 2020
— #AsianCup2023 (@afcasiancup) February 2, 2019
Germany reeling after opening defeat
Germany, the four-time World Cup champions, had looked to be cruising against Japan after Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring with a penalty, but paid a fatal price for missed chances. The shock result was a repeat of their 2018 World Cup nightmare, when the defending champions lost their opener to Mexico, and after another defeat by South Korea were condemned to a group-stage exit.
"This is a huge disappointment and frustrating," Germany captain Manuel Neuer said. "We made the opponent strong. The final desire made the difference. Japan believed they could win while we thought we could preserve the lead."
Coach Hansi Flick said: "It is brutally disappointing. We are annoyed we lost the game because we had the chances. We have to look forward. We have the chance for six points".
Japanese manager Hajime Moriyasu was over the moon. "I believe it is a historic moment, a historic victory," he said. Defender Maya Yoshida added: "This is the beauty of football, sometimes it happens. Now the spotlight is on our side, it's time to dance."
Germany looked in total command early in the Group E clash. But with each missed chance they left the door ajar for Japan, who showed almost nothing in attack until a series of substitutions injected some energy in the second half.
Doan, who plays for Freiburg in the German Bundesliga, equalised in the 75th minute after following in a rebound. Then Asano, who plays for VfL Bochum in the Bundesliga, showed lovely control and smashed the winner in from a tight angle - causing an explosion of joy among the Japan bench.
It was a turnaround that looked scarcely believable as Japan struggled to get any foothold for most of the game. The German players had lined for a pre-match team photo with hands over their mouths in a protest in favour of free speech after Neuer had been barred from wearing the OneLove armband, but the off-field row did not seem to be a distraction.
Next up for Germany is essentially a must-win clash on Monday morning (AEDT) against fellow European powerhouses Spain, who opened their account with a thumping 7-0 victory over Costa Rica. Anything less than three points could spell the end of Germany's hopes, particularly if Japan can secure a second win in their match against the Costa Ricans.
"With this defeat and zero points, we are under pressure, there's no question about that," added Flick. "We can only blame ourselves, so now we have to make sure we can come out of this. We need to be courageous and decisive."
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