DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Just wait, thought Ritsu Doan. just wait
The Japanese midfielder, who plays for German side Freiburg, had to clench his teeth after hearing his side would be easy opponents for Germany at the World Cup.
“I listened to their speeches with a fake smile on my face and in my heart,” 24-year-old Doan said Thursday after making a remarkable comeback and arguably the biggest result in Japan’s World Cup history the night before.
Substituting in the 71st minute, it took Doan just four minutes to nullify Ilkay Gundogan’s first-half penalty with the equalizer, then watched substitute Takuma Asano score 2-1 in the 83rd minute Japan scored the winning goal.
“I thought the coolest thing I could do as a man was to silence her by winning, so I’m glad I won and was able to do that,” Doan said.
The surprise win over the four-time champions sparked wild celebrations from the throngs of Japanese fans at the Khalifa International Stadium and elicited tears of joy from fans watching the goals on big screens at home.
“I think all of Japan was very excited,” said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “I was able to watch the game on TV and it was a great win.”
Kishida acknowledged the “team power, individual power and direction of the coach”.
Japan striker Daizen Maeda said it was “the happiest moment I’ve ever had in my football career”.
While Japan celebrated immediately after the game in what coach Hajime Moriyasu called a “historic moment, a historic victory”, the former midfielder struck more cautiously the next day as he attempted to realign the side for Sunday’s next game against Costa Rica .
“I keep saying that we shouldn’t be too happy or too sad about the results,” said the coach on Thursday. “The result against Germany is already in the past, so we will do our best to prepare to win the next game. We’ll do what we’ve always done and be ready for the next game.”
Costa Rica’s World Cup appearance began with a 7-0 win over Spain.
Japan can theoretically even secure a place in the round of 16 with a win on Sunday, depending on a favor from Spain against Germany.
Japan are playing their seventh consecutive World Cup and Moriyasu previously said the team’s aim is to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Even Doan has tempered his excitement as he looks forward to the challenges ahead.
“We haven’t changed the story yet, but I think it was a historic game, so yesterday I celebrated with all my teammates,” Doan said. “But as of today I’ve really changed my mind and I’m preparing for the Costa Rica game, so I’ll be careful not to get cocky.”
Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo received a barrage of calls and emails from friends and family after the game.
“So I really feel like this was a historic win,” Nagatomo said. “I’m happy if that helps revitalize football and increase the popularity of the sport. We only won one game, so I want to focus on the next game.”
Whatever happens for the rest of the tournament, Nagatomo said the win against Germany was “one of the best experiences of my football career”.
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