Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: Japanese football fans bask in Samurai Blue’s 2-1 upset win over Germany
- Taiyo, a male otter in a Tokyo aquarium, is being effusively praised for predicting the shock victory against the four-times champion
- Before the game the mammal placed a miniature football into a bucket bearing the Japanese flag, ignoring German and ‘draw’ buckets
With the Samurai Blue a goal down at half-time in the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Wednesday and the Japanese goalkeeper performing heroics to keep the German attack at bay, Issei Izawa made a terrible mistake. He went to bed.
“It really didn’t look good at that point, and I had to get up really early for work this morning, so I turned it off at half-time,” he said. “Honestly, I thought Japan would be lucky to get away with a 3-0 loss, the way Germany were playing.”
The scale of his error of judgment only became apparent when he checked his mobile phone through bleary eyes when the alarm went off.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I never thought Japan could possibly beat a team like Germany, who have won the World Cup like four times before. How could that happen?”
Japanese fans across the country were asking themselves the same question as the final whistle blew in Qatar just before midnight in Japan, but that was swiftly replaced by jubilation at the 2-1 result.
Drinkers in bars that screened the game live erupted as the referee signalled the end of the match, with TV footage capturing revellers in the team’s blue shirts and waving the national flag clogging the streets of Tokyo’s Shibuya nightlife district. There were similar scenes of relieved and ecstatic fans dancing in the streets of Osaka, Yokohama and Nagoya.
Perhaps the only fan with the conviction that Japan could emerge victorious from a clash with one of the footballing world’s heavyweights is not actually a human.
Taiyo, an eight-year-old male otter at Tokyo’s Maxell Aqua Park Shinagawa apparently predicted the win by placing a miniature football into a bucket bearing the Japanese flag the day before the match. The otter ignored the German bucket and another one labelled ‘draw’, with his understanding of the game winning praise online and in the Japanese media after the unexpected victory.
“Gone are the days when we were told that the opposition was a powerhouse, and it would be impossible to beat them. This team has the ability and I think we should aim for the last eight teams, at least.”
Another fan pointed out that US data analysis company Gracenote gives Japan a 78 per cent chance of progressing to the knockout rounds, adding, “It means a lot to get three points from the first match and we can now play the second game more calmly and without feeling pressured. This win makes everything look different.”
Another post on the Nippon Television News website cautioned against overconfidence, however, saying, “Winning against Germany was huge, but this is just one step. It does not mean that the battle is over.”
Izawa says he has greater confidence in the Japanese team now that the first game of the tournament is out of the way.
“Japan has to play Costa Rica on Sunday and I’m pretty confident that we can win that one,” he said. “And that leaves the last group game against Spain. If Japan plays like it did against Germany – and we get a bit of luck – then we will be out of the group and into the knockout stages.
“There have already been some other shock results, like Argentina [losing to Saudi Arabia], so anything really can happen at this stage,” he said. “I think Japan could get to the quarter finals, with a bit of luck. But I’m definitely not turning the TV off at half-time again.”