Miracle in Doha: Japan rejoices in astonishing World Cup progress

Elation in Japan as team stuns Spain and captains a tough group of football powerhouses.

Japan burst into cheers and tears after the national team’s 2-1 victory over Spain, with crowds screaming with joy in the cold before dawn, packing a public viewing area as they stunned another global football power at the World Cup.

Japan, who had also shocked Germany in their opener in Qatar, finished top of Group E to reach the last 16, a stage in which they faltered three times before.

They play against Croatia, number two of 2018, for a place in the quarter-finals.

“Doha rejoices again!” a newspaper headlined the online edition, evoking memories of what the media dubbed the “miracle in Doha” after Japan’s victory over the Germans.

Fans chanting “Nippon” poured into Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya Crossing before dawn, jumping up and down and chanting “Fight, fight, fight!” as police struggled to control the crowd.

Fans at the Khalifa International Stadium [AP Photo]

“I never thought that Japan would reach first place in the group. Thanks Jaap! I love you!” said 19-year-old Yusei Sato, wearing Japan’s Samurai Blue national team jersey.

Takuya Kudo, 23, was in tears when he saw Japan win.

“I’m just so happy,” he said. “Honestly, I never thought Japan would do so well. I am just very happy.”

Fans lingering in Shibuya gave high-fives to fuzzy commuters on their way to work from one of Tokyo’s busiest stations.

“I thought this game would be a bit difficult,” said 36-year-old Munehiro Hashimoto, wearing a Japanese shirt, with blue and silver tinsel around his shoulders.

He had spared no expense with his outfit, donning a makeshift blue samurai helmet with the inscription “must win” and “samurai spirit” on either side.

“It started at 4am (in Japan), so I watched it at home. Then they won, so I hurried over here. We did it!”

Social media exploded with joy, with some fans posting manga-style drawings of a cheering player in a team uniform.

Another posted a cartoon of three dragons draped in national flags. The Japanese dragon roared while the Spanish dragon looked at Germany, who looked confused.

The sense of triumph rose even to Japan’s normally stable political heights, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida telling reporters the victory was “historic” and Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu and Japan Football Association president Kozo Tashima calling to congratulate him .

The Japanese Ritsu Doan celebrates his first goal with Kaoru Mitoma [Dylan Martinez/Reuters[

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