In reaching the round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Japan’s Samurai Blue have already broken the cycle that has followed the team since its debut on the global stage, 24 years ago in France.

Throughout six previous World Cup appearances, Japan frustratingly alternated between group-stage exits — managing a record of 0-2-7 with five goals scored to 17 against — and last-16 runs that each ended on a different but bitter note.

That Japan has reached consecutive knockout stages for the first time in its history is no small feat in and of itself, with just eight of the other 15 teams who escaped the group phase this year having also done so at the 2018 edition in Russia.