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Locked [Sports ]2022 World Cup: Asian teams an emerging force against football giants


ORIGINje
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At the Al Sadd Club grounds in Doha, we get a few minutes to watch the Japanese national team train.

They've been an astounding presence in this World Cup.

They made it to the last 16 after topping their group, beating the 2010 winners Spain and four-time world champions Germany, who failed to reach the knockout stage.

But the Samurai Blue are taking nothing for granted as they prepare to face Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners up.

"It's another wall they have to break," Japanese sports journalist Kumi Kinohara told me.

"We'll have to keep our fingers crossed. But I want to see them play in their own style," she added.

The Asia Pacific teams have been fearless on the pitch and have given their fans a lot to cheer for. Their performances so far have left some of the football powerhouses like Germany, Spain and Portugal in shock.

I also met Yim Minhuk and Kim Tonghwan. They've both travelled from Seoul to support South Korea.

Three men wearing yellow jerseys running

They recalled the dramatic moment their team beat Portugal 2-1 and Uruguay fell short, exiting the World Cup.

"We won! We didn't give up. Where was Ronaldo?" Kim said.

"I'm very glad to see Asia competing with European and [South American teams] and I'm sure one day we will win the trophy," Yim said. "Remember my words."

This has been a World Cup of high emotion and high drama.

The Asia Pacific teams have delivered some of the most extraordinary moments so far.

"It's the underdog mentality. They're really fighting for it," Australian David Buttigieg told me, his face painted in his teams colours when he came to cheer them on as they faced, and lost to, Argentina last week.

"You see teams like Japan pressing so hard and taking time away from opponents [on the pitch]," he added.

"That's what the World Cup is all about, it's bringing teams that wouldn't [normally] be on to big stage to the big stage," Mr Buttigieg said.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/63857144

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