Japanese soccer fans roared in frustration Friday morning after the national team ended its crucial match with Greece with an underwhelming 0-0 draw, making its advance to the second stage of the World Cup highly unlikely, though not impossible.
A crowd of 200 avid Samurai Blue supporters, mostly office workers, gathered at a public viewing space set up in the Marunouchi Building near Tokyo Station before reporting for work, and another 150 fans in suits massed outside to watch through the windows, while a bar inside was packed to capacity with 180 customers.
“I think Greece did a fantastic job in keeping its defense strong,” said a crestfallen Hiroyuki Miyamoto, 25, as he reflected on what was supposed to be a much-anticipated victory.
Businessman Tamotsu Motohashi, 48, described the loss as an “extreme disappointment.”
Japan outnumbered Greece after team captain Konstantinos Katsouranis received a red card 38 minutes into the first half. But Motohashi said Japan failed to capitalize on its advantage.
“I think Japan maintained its aggressiveness slightly better than during its previous match with Cote d’Ivoire, but it still couldn’t be as offense-minded as it should’ve been,” Motohashi said. Cote d’Ivoire beat Japan 2-1.
Throughout the game, Japan controlled possession, and there were several moments when it almost looked like it had scored. Each time, the crowd burst into spasms of joy, only to groan after realizing Japan had missed.
“There were lots of occasions where they could’ve made a goal, but they appeared to struggle in the face of the overwhelming height of Greek players,” said Kyosuke Kanbe, a 26-year-old man who had taken the day off from his job to watch the match.
Although pessimism appeared to prevail, 35-year-old fan Mariko Konno remained upbeat.
“My colleagues would teasingly tell me that Japan is destined to lose,” she said. “It didn’t lose. So I’m glad the team proved them wrong.” Konno said proudly before hurrying off to work.