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Japan fans, players show big heart after FIFA World Cup 2018 exit; clean dressing room & stands

Japanese fans and players cleaned the Rostov Arena Stadium and dressing room after their loss to Belgium in a FIFA World Cup 2018 Round of 16 match

football Updated: Jul 04, 2018 11:10 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
FIFA World Cup 2018,Japan football team,Belgium football team
Japanese fans collect trash after the round of 16 match against Belgium in the Rostov Arena at the FIFA World Cup 2018.(AP)

Japan showed immense grit in their FIFA World Cup 2018 Round of 16 match against Belgium before going down 2-3. The result was particularly disheartening for the fans and the Japanese players alike as till early second half, they led 2-0. (BEL v JPN report)

Nonetheless, the loss did not deter Japanese fans from displaying exemplary behaviour. After the match ended in Rostov-on-Don, Japanese fans could be seen cleaning up the stands and filing up all the trash in plastic bags. (BEL v JPN highlights)

Their football team was not behind either as it cleaned the dressing room and even left a ‘Thank you’ note behind.

However, most of the fans were teary-eyed after the result. The Samurai Blue looked on track to reach their first quarter-final in three last-16 attempts, only to see the Belgium national football team roar back and snatch a 3-2 win with an explosive counter-attack deep into stoppage time.

“When we took the lead I thought we were going to win,” said 21-year-old university student Nao Okada, who burst into tears at a Tokyo sports bar as the final whistle sounded.

READ | Belgium proved winning mentality in stunning comeback: Roberto Martinez

“It hurts but it was a really good game and I feel moved. I want Japan to keep playing hard next time,” she said.

The 61st-ranked Japanese were given little chance of making an impact at the tournament, but their gritty group stage display and last-16 match versus Belgium won over the fans.

“This was a really good team, their passing and scoring and teamwork,” said 39-year-old hairdresser Kenichi Okegami.

“At 2-2 I thought we were heading for a penalty shootout... it’s crushing,” he said.

Belgium became the first side to win a World Cup knockout game from two goals down since 1970, making the loss all the more gut-wrenching for Japan and their supporters.

“Just a little bit more... it was a harsh result,” said Kenta Saito, 61, a former school football coach and a qualified referee. “They had chances at the end but they couldn’t grab them,” he said.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 10:54 IST