Who would have thought that
It wasn’t much of a match. Both defenses were just good enough, and both offenses were just bad enough. Neither team felt it was quite good enough to win it, so they played not to lose and were content to hand over their fate to penalty kicks, which (for everyone but the English) is a no different than a coin flip. To its credit,
The Blue Samurai will receive a warm welcome when they arrive back home. Of course, it’s easy to exceed expectations when you have none going in. This was a team that performed so poorly over the past few months that it was booed off the pitch once and was best known for breaking Didier Drogba’s arm. Yet this side with no major international stars used just enough wit, guile, and style to win two games and come with a whisker of advancing to the final eight.
The secret lies in wa, or harmony. The Japanese used teamwork and unity to make up for a skill deficiency, and perhaps provided a lesson to some fractious, star-laden European sides.