It was a really, genuinely thrilling match: Japan looked like they’d be advancing to the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup after two astounding goals in Rostov yesterday.
But then… disaster… it all came crashing down when Belgium mounted a breathtaking comeback and Nacer Chadli netted an implausible breakaway 94th-minute winner.
The plucky lads from Japan were out. That stings.
And yet we’ve all fallen a little bit in love with the Japanese side, as well as their supporters. The Asian team’s fans made headlines after they were seen politely picking up litter after the match against Columbia.
And that unwavering Japanese politeness was on display even after their crushing defeat to Belgium when they stayed on the pitch to pay tribute to the fans as their World Cup run came to an end.
And in another sign of their impeccable etiquette, the national side even cleaned out their locker room and left a charming little thank you note for their Russian hosts.
Sports correspondent Tancredi Palmeri posted a snap of the locker room on Twitter and said: “Amazing from Japan. This is how they left the changing room after losing v Belgium: cleaned it all. And in the middle, have left a message to Russia: ‘Spasibo’ (Thank you).”
According to the Telegraph, Japan head coach Akira Nishino said his players were so devastated by the defeat they just stood around doing nothing in the locker room after the match. “I told them to take a shower,” said Nishino.
Ruminating on the match, he added: “We were leading and we were going to win, but I didn’t expect this reversal of the result. It was the World Cup, and we were faced with the depth and the strength of Belgium. That’s how I felt at the end of the game.”
Regardless of the result, Japan have been a perfect example of excellent sportsmanship. What pros.