What’s next for Japan after exit on penalties at World Cup?

Dec 5, 2022, 12:41 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2022, 8:15 am

Japan's head coach Hajime Moriyasu bows after losing the penalty shootout of the World Cup round of...

Japan's head coach Hajime Moriyasu bows after losing the penalty shootout of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Japan and Croatia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — In Japan’s fourth appearance in the round of 16 at the World Cup, the team was knocked out for the fourth time. The Japanese lost to Croatia in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw. The Croats won the shootout 3-1.

Japan also reached the round of 16 in 2002, 2010 and four years ago in Russia.


Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said for months that the goal was to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. So by that standard, Japan under-performed.

However, 2-1 victories over former World Cup champions Spain and Germany in the group stage showed Japan has improved enough to compete with top soccer nations.

“Even though we could not break the wall of the round of 16 again, players demonstrated a new era of our soccer,” Moriyasu said.

Moriyasu talked of still needing to improve, but the coach said his players “can look eye-to-eye with anyone now.”

Moriyasu’s contract expires at the end of the World Cup. Japan soccer association president Tashima Kohzo said in Doha that Moriyasu was likely to be a candidate to continue. He gave no more details.


Fullback Yuto Nagatomo, 36, and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, 39, have each been on four World Cup squads and certainly will not return. Nagatomo played in all four games in Qatar, but Kawashima never left the bench. Instead, he served as a veteran mentor to the young team.

Captain and defender Maya Yoshida was in his third World Cup and, at 34, most likely his last.

“I’m having trouble finding words to describe how I feel,” Nagatomo said after the loss to Croatia on Monday. “We did everything we could until the very end. I trust that younger players, driven by this sense of regret, will make a better future for Japanese soccer.”


Three names come immediately to mind.

Midfielder Ritsu Doan, who plays at German club Freiburg, scored two goals and will certainly be a backbone of future teams. Another is midfielder Kaoru Mitoma, who is having at stellar season at English club Brighton in the Premier League.

Mitoma was one of three Japanese players who missed their penalty kick in the shootout loss to Croatia.

The third is another midfielder, 21-year-old Takefusa Kubo, who plays at Spanish club Real Sociedad.


Japan has qualified for the Asian Cup, a tournament it has won four times. The event, scheduled for January 2024, was moved to Qatar after China withdrew, citing COVID-19.


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

7 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

7 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

7 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

7 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

7 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

7 months ago

What’s next for Japan after exit on penalties at World Cup?