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Japan aim to break “final-16 hex” at World Cup as they face Costa Rica next

Japan's head coach Hajime Moriyasu watches his team during a training session of Japan national team in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. (AP)
Japan's head coach Hajime Moriyasu watches his team during a training session of Japan national team in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. (AP)
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26 Nov 2022 07:11:09 GMT9
26 Nov 2022 07:11:09 GMT9

Arab News Japan

DOHA: “Daikimboshi” was the term used by Japanese newspapers after their country’s shock 2-1 win over Germany in the opening round of the World Cup in Qatar.

The word “Daikimboshi” comes from sumo wrestling and is normally used in Japan when a low-ranked wrestler overpowers a grand champion.

The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 upset of powerful South Africa in the 2015 rugby World Cup in England.

Japan were the underdogs against four-time champions Germany, but they will be strong favorites in its next Group E match against Costa Rica, where a victory could move Japan into the knockout stage with a game to spare.

Japan have never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time. This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and they have reached the round of 16 on three occasions, including in Russia in 2018. They lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0.

They were eliminated by Paraguay on penalties in 2010, and lost to Turkey 1-0 in 2002 when the country co-hosted the event with South Korea.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu has spoken often about going farther this time and breaking the “final-16 hex.”

Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals against Germany — they both play in Germany’s Bundesliga — to lead Japan to the upset. Asano got the winner in the 83rd minute, squeezing the ball behind German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from a very sharp angle.

Costa Rica was overwhelmed by Spain with only 28% of the possession. It would also face the same problem against Japan, which is able to hold the ball for long spells, and is also a quick, counterattacking threat.

“We couldn’t complete three or four passes,” Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez said of the Spain loss.

The Ticos will have to do much more against Japan.

(With inputs from AP)

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