Japan aiming for best World Cup finish: Moriyasu

DOHA: Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said he was setting his sights on a best-ever finish for the country at the World Cup after they stunned Spain 2-1 to finish top of Group E on Thursday.

The Blue Samurai will face Croatia in the next round, but Moriyasu is looking even further down the line, having beaten and helped eliminate four-time champions Germany.

It is the fourth time Japan have reached the last 16 but they have never progressed beyond that stage.

"In terms of a finish, the new aim for us is the last eight," said Moriyasu.

"The players are showing us a different and new view of being able to fight on the world stage.

"I would like to set a new record of the last eight or better."

Spain took the lead against Japan through Alvaro Morata's header, but like in their comeback against Germany, Moriyasu's side turned the game on its head after the break.

Ritsu Doan blasted home from outside the area in the 48th minute and three minutes later Ao Tanaka bundled home from on the goal-line.

The controversial goal was given after officials decided the ball had not gone out of play using VAR.

"First of all, concerning that goal, we were just playing to win," the coach told a press conference.

"We think that our intent materialised as a goal, whether the ball was out or not.

"There is great technology nowadays for 'big football' and if it was really out, it would have been a goal kick.

"The judgement of the referee was that it was in and we respected that. But we were willing to accept it either way, but the final judgement was that it was in."

Japan players collapsed at the full-time whistle, while the substitutes and staff raced on to the pitch in celebration of an enormous accomplishment.

"Big thanks to all our supporters, the people of Japan, for their support," added Moriyasu.

"Thanks to everyone's support, we were able to make it through this difficult match.

"I'm happy that I was able to deliver the victory to everyone and produce results that we can all be happy with." -- AFP

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