Japan’s footballers were devastated after Monday’s painful loss on penalties to Croatia in the World Cup round of 16, but manager Hajime Moriyasu chose to look to a brighter future for his team for years to come despite his disappointment.

Japan, looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, were the more ambitious team in the first half and deservedly took the lead through Daizen Maeda, but it faded after Ivan Perisic equalized with a header for Croatia and collapsed. completely in the penalty shootout.

Japan had lost to Turkey, Paraguay and Belgium in their three previous World Cup round of 16 appearances in 2002, 2010 and 2018.

“Every day for four years we have worked hard to reach the quarter-finals, but we couldn’t get the result we wanted,” said captain Maya Yoshida, one of three players to have a save saved by Croatian goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic. penal. “It’s really hard to take.”

Only Takuma Asano converted his penalty, as Livakovic also blocked shots from Takumi Minamino and Kaoru Mitoma before Mario Pasalic fooled Shuichi Gonda and coolly scored the winner.

Defender Yuto Nagatomo added: “It’s hard to find the words. I think the regret we feel from this loss will lead to something better in the years to come.”

Japan won Group E after defeating Germany and Spain, both 2-1, something that nobody expected.

“I don’t think they have succumbed to the pressure,” Moriyasu said of the match against Croatia. “The players who played the full 120 minutes and those who took the penalties were brave. I would like to commend their efforts, they tried under immense pressure.”

“We beat Germany and Spain, two world champions. We have to trust our (…) I think there will be a different future for Japanese football.”

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