2018 World Cup loss to Belgium still haunts Japanese squad
Japan is preparing for its first knock-out game at the 2022 World Cup against Croatia. During a press conference on Sunday, winger Yuto Nagatomo was reminded of the 1/16 final four years ago at the World Cup in Russia. During that game, the Japanese gave away a 2-0 lead against the Belgian Red Devils and lost 3-2. "I never forgot that," Nagatomo said.
"It remains very difficult," he explained. "You don't forget a match like that. I can remember the phases of that game very well. The past four years have been tough." The 36-year-old Nagatomo returned to FC Tokyo at home last year after a career in Europe with Cesena, Inter Milan, Galatasaray and Marseille.
Current national coach Hajime Moriyasu was an assistant at the time. "For me, we should have won that match," he said on Sunday. "We deserved to reach the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, the team has only got stronger. We already won against Germany and Spain in this tournament."
"Against Croatia, it will definitely be difficult. It is a country with a lot of good footballers. You don't become a vice-world champion just like that. They are also a smart team, very flexible and with a lot of experience in knockout matches. The fact that we have already been able to win against top countries like Germany and Spain gives us a lot of confidence. We want to get to the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in our country's history," the coach added.
© BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ