Japanese boss Akria Nishino had to be feeling pretty great, if not elated, when his Samurai Blue scored twice in five second-half minutes to take a stunning if not deserved 2-0 lead over Belgium in the World Cup’s Round of 16 on Monday.
[ RECAP: Belgium 3-2 Japan ]
The former Vissel Kobe and Nagoya Grampus boss had, after all, just taken over the managerial chair in April, and now had Japan about 40 minutes from the nation’s first quarterfinal berth.
What a difference 45 minutes can make. Belgium scored three times, once in the fourth minute of stoppage, to upend the Samurai Blue and set up a meeting with Brazil.
“I don’t want to admit it,” Nishiro said. “I do feel that it was a tragedy but I have to accept the defeat as a fact.”
Nishino hurts. From the BBC:
“I am devastated. Yes we took the lead but we couldn’t win. It might have been a very small difference but I felt there was nothing in it. Maybe it was my decisions as a coach or my tactics, and we couldn’t keep up with Belgium, who upped their game.”
These are defeats that live in memories for a long, long time. Moments from stoppage, and a much needed break given the momentum on Belgium’s side, the Samurai Blue will be left to wonder what if on a play which could’ve been affected by at least 63 percent of its XI.