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Japan, South Korea defeats end World Cup dreams for Asians

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Kabul: Japan’s loss to Croatia in a penalty shootout and South Korea’s 4-1 defeat to Brazil have ended their World Cup runs.

Japan’s penalty shootout defeat to Croatia followed by Brazil’s solid 4-1 win over South Korea have ended Asian hopes at the World Cup in Qatar.

The earlier loss by Australia to Argentina in the group of 16 knockouts means that all three Asian Football Confederation teams have now been eliminated in the first knockout round of the World Cup.

But the Samurai Blue and the Taegeuk Warriors have much to be proud of, not least Japan’s shock upsets in winning matches against European heavyweights Germany (2-1) and Spain (2-1) in the group stage, and South Korea’s stunning 2-1 win over Portugal.

Japan’s Nikkei Asia news organisation had described Monday’s games as “one of the biggest nights in Asian soccer for two decades” and South Korea’s Yonhap news agency wrote of the unlikely journey of the national team to the knockout stage of the World Cup in what had become a “memorable underdog story”.

Ultimately, both intrepid campaigns came to an end as the East Asian footballing giants were unable to progress to the quarter-finals.

As group winners in Qatar and defeating two former world champions in the process, Japan went through to face a streetwise Croatian team on Monday and after 120 minutes of play and a 1-1 draw, the Japanese faltered and went down 3-1 on penalties.

Meanwhile, Brazil lit up the night sky on Monday with one of the performances of the World Cup to defeat South Korea 4-1.

The Brazilians brought a beach soccer swagger to the iconic Stadium 974 with a display that simply overwhelmed the Koreans, and likely struck fear into potential opponents.

“We’re dreaming of the title, of course,” Brazilian talisman Neymar said. “Today was the fourth game, there are three left. We’re very focused on getting that title.”

After Japan’s penalty shootout loss to Croatia, and Australia’s loss to Argentina, South Korea’s defeat means that all three Asian Confederation teams were eliminated in the first knockout round.

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