The World Cup Qatar soccer tournament started on November 20th.

The Japan national team, which was participating for the 7th time, entered this tournament with the goal of reaching the best 8, which they have never reached before.

However, they lost to Croatia in the first round of the final tournament this time, which was their fourth attempt.

I couldn't wait to see the ′′ new scenery ′′ that I've been waiting for.

Even so, it was a tournament that yielded unprecedented results for Japan.

(Yoshihiro Takeda, sports news department reporter)

Losing narrowly in the first round of the final tournament

In the first round of the final tournament on the 5th, the Japan national team had to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in the history of the World Cup.

The world ranking is also 12th, which is higher than Japan's 24th.

The midfield was filled with players who have played for some of the world's biggest clubs, and despite facing a physically strong opponent, Japan played tenaciously.

In the 43rd minute of the first half, Daizen Maeda scored from a corner kick to take the lead.

In the 10th minute of the second half, the opponent scored a high RBI headed shot and the score was tied, but after that, the score was not given and the game went to a penalty kick match.

Japan lost the race here.

A long-awaited top 8 for Japan

In fact, this was the 4th time for Japan to challenge the first round of the final tournament, which is required to advance to the last 8.

They have lost all three times so far, and the Japan Football Association has positioned the semi-finals and above as a "new landscape" that they have not yet reached.

And in the first league of this tournament, both Germany and Spain, the world's leading powerhouses who have won the championship, won come-from-behind.

I had high hopes that my wish would finally be fulfilled.

You showed me another "new scenery"

Although they lost against Croatia, coach Moriyasu gathered the players and staff in a circle after the match and said, "It may be said that we could not break the barrier of the round of 16 and see new scenery, but It gave us a new view of how we can beat teams that have won the World Cup, such as Germany and Spain.”

This tournament is the first time for Japan to be in the same group in the first league with two teams that have won the championship.

Despite being forced into an unprecedentedly tough battle, they defeated those two teams and advanced to the final tournament as the top of the group.

As Director Moriyasu said, I think it's safe to say that Japan has arrived at a "new landscape" that is different from the best eight.

Comment acknowledging Japan's ability

If you recall, the World Cup combination lottery was held in April this year.

Regarding Spain, Germany, Japan, etc. being in the same group, Spanish national team coach Luis Enrique said at the time that Germany was "a great rival", but about Japan, "It's hard to say that it's been the same coach for a long time. I know," and didn't even try to hide that he didn't care.

After defeating Germany, Japan came from behind to win Spain.

After the match, Coach Enrique made a remarkably acknowledgment of Japan's ability, saying, ``I don't think there is a team anywhere in the world that will be troubled when Japan plays an aggressive defense.''

Where is the strength to beat the world's powerhouses?

Then, what was the factor behind the progress of Japanese football?

First, we have a player who can break through the situation on his own.

Coach Moriyasu believes that in order for Japan to become stronger as an organization, it is necessary to raise the power of individual players.

In the 3rd match of the 1st league against Spain, Ritsu Doan's left-footed mid-range shot scored the equalizing goal with a speed of 120.04 km/h, the second fastest goal in the 1st league overall. It was a goal of world-class quality.

MITOMOM Kaoru, who came on as a substitute in the second half of the match against Croatia, held the ball in his own half just before the end of the first half of extra time and used his specialty dribbling to carry the ball up a long distance by himself and hit a mid-range shot himself to threaten the opponent's goal.

World-class power and height

In the match against Croatia, we saw improvement in defence, which has been an issue in the past.

After the score was tied, Croatia tried to steal the score by throwing in a long ball using their high quality.

It was a method that Japan was not good at against opponents with physical differences.

Even so, they somehow endured and survived the unfavorable aerial battles, which were led by Takehiro Tomiyasu, who plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League.

Coach Moriyasu said, ``I think the history of Japanese football has been that we were pushed by long balls and then pushed away from there, but the players showed us a new era, and the opponents showed power against Japan. He showed us that he can fully cope with the world even with height and height."

There is a difference in the part that decides where you aim strongly

However, it is also true that Croatia, who won the second place in the last World Cup by winning three consecutive overtime games, showed their competitive strength.

In the penalty kick match, three Japanese players missed, but the Croatian players scored reliably even under pressure.

Coach Moriyasu said, ``The opposing goalkeeper was amazing in today's match, but I felt that there was a difference between Japan and the world's top teams in terms of scoring where they aimed the ball strongly. If you can kick the ball straight away, you can play a game. I think this is one of the points that we need to improve in Japanese football in the future.”

He added, "One of the points to raise the level of Japanese football is that we control the game and advance the game to a higher level. Everything won't change at once, but it's important to build up steadily. I think," he said.

what team this time

The Japan Football Association has set a goal of winning the World Cup by 2050.

There is no doubt that Japan has moved forward in this tournament, but as captain Yoshida said, "Only a really strong team can make it to the top 8." It's an unavoidable goal.

How can we make the most of unprecedented harvests and issues that weren't reached by a fine line?

What kind of team Japan will make next time and go to see "new scenery"?

I would like to continue interviewing.