OSAKA — Japan was upbeat Friday as its national team beat Tunisia in a make-or-break match in Osaka to secure a place in the second round of the World Cup soccer finals.

Nagai Stadium and the downtown area were awash with jubilant, cheering fans, about 500 of whom illustrated their joy by jumping into the Dotonbori River from Ebisubashi Bridge and other vantage points, police said.

Two who jumped in naked were later arrested by police for exposing themselves in public, while four others were apprehended after a fight with police officers.

Police tightened security amid fears of rowdy scenes involving excited fans and stationed about 400 officers around Ebisubashi Bridge, but they were no match for the festive mood that gripped the river area in the heart of Minami Ward.

Earlier, police had erected signs in six languages, including English and French, warning supporters of the dangers of jumping into the river.

Jumping into the river is the traditional way in which local fans celebrate victories.

“It’s just great. I just want to burst with joy,” said 16-year-old Osaka resident Yuya Yamamoto of Japan’s latest triumph.

Reports of thefts put a damper on celebrations prior to the Japan-Tunisia match, according to Osaka police.

At around 2:30 p.m., a 19-year-old woman was ordered by a young man near the stadium to show him her ticket, which he subsequently snatched and made off with, police said.

At about the same time, a 20-year-old man noticed his ticket missing when he went to buy juice at a vending machine, and then saw a man rush from the scene, they said.

In both cases, the victims were allowed entry to the game, which began at 3:30 p.m., after informing the organizers of the incidents.

Meanwhile, a statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders was whisked from its storefront spot Friday in Kobe and sustained damage during the euphoria following the win over Tunisia.

A statue of the bearded poultry icon suffered a similar fate in 1985 in Osaka after a Hanshin Tigers victory, with exuberant fans tossing the life-size plastic model of the Colonel into the Dotonbori River.

Store officials said the statue outside the restaurant in Kobe’s Sannomiya entertainment district was snatched by several unidentified people around 8 p.m. and then carried several meters away by an overexcited mob. Several young men kicked the statue and later made off with its hands.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.