On the Al Sadd Membership grounds in Doha, we get a couple of minutes to observe the Japanese nationwide group practice.
They have been an astounding presence on this World Cup.
They made it to the final 16 after topping their group, beating the 2010 winners Spain and four-time world champions Germany, who failed to succeed in the knockout stage.
However the Samurai Blue are taking nothing without any consideration as they put together to face Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners up.
“It is one other wall they’ve to interrupt,” Japanese sports activities journalist Kumi Kinohara advised me.
“We’ll need to hold our fingers crossed. However I need to see them play in their very own type,” she added.
The Asia Pacific groups have been fearless on the pitch and have given their followers lots to cheer for. Their performances thus far have left a few of the soccer powerhouses like Germany, Spain and Portugal in shock.
I additionally met Yim Minhuk and Kim Tonghwan. They’ve each travelled from Seoul to help South Korea.
They recalled the dramatic second their group beat Portugal 2-1 and Uruguay fell quick, exiting the World Cup.
“We gained! We did not surrender. The place was Ronaldo?” Kim mentioned.
“I am very glad to see Asia competing with European and [South American teams] and I am positive someday we’ll win the trophy,” Yim mentioned. “Keep in mind my phrases.”
This has been a World Cup of excessive emotion and excessive drama.
The Asia Pacific groups have delivered a few of the most extraordinary moments thus far.
“It is the underdog mentality. They’re actually combating for it,” Australian David Buttigieg advised me, his face painted in his groups colors when he got here to cheer them on as they confronted, and misplaced to, Argentina final week.
“You see groups like Japan urgent so exhausting and taking time away from opponents [on the pitch],” he added.
“That is what the World Cup is all about, it is bringing groups that would not [normally] be on to massive stage to the massive stage,” Mr Buttigieg mentioned.
The performances of those sides could have taken their opponents unexpectedly however Japanese sports activities journalist Kumi Kinohara mentioned their success was not by likelihood.
Ms Kinohara mentioned this was the results of expertise and the arrogance the groups have gained – particularly after profitable towards a few of soccer’s titans. Extra crucially, that is additionally about publicity to top-quality soccer.
Many Asian gamers are actually competing in European leagues. For instance, Japan’s Takuma Asano performs for the Bundesliga membership VfL Bochum.
South Korea’s Son Heung-min has cemented his place within the English Premier League as one in every of Tottenham Hotspur’s forwards.
“One of many causes they’re doing so nicely is the background of the gamers,” Ms Kinohara mentioned.
“They now have expertise with European golf equipment. They’re studying lots. Not solely strategies and ways however the psychological aspect as nicely.
“That has [contributed] to the change of their sport. And it is put every little thing collectively in relation to the nationwide groups,” she mentioned.
Final week, Melbourne’s Federation Sq. erupted in celebration – flares turned the evening sky crimson, with Australian followers in raptures as their aspect beat Denmark to safe a spot within the knockout phases.
“I really feel extremely proud. These boys have labored their guts out. We’re not solely passengers, we’re really aggressive,” Andrea Mosler tells me.
She and her son Orlando Jeffery are draped within the Australian flag outdoors the stadium earlier than their aspect’s match towards Argentina.
And though Australia’s desires have now been dashed, they go dwelling a proud squad.
That is the primary time the match has been held within the Center East – however for a lot of followers that is additionally an Asian World Cup.
With the Socceroos now out, Japan and South Korea each brace for his or her subsequent struggle as they face Croatia and Brazil – two video games that might probably ship extra jaw-dropping upsets.
Win or lose, these groups have confirmed themselves worthy opponents towards the giants of the sport.
“I believe it is a reflection of the world,” Darren Camilleri, an Australian fan, advised me.
“You see the youngsters in Asia watching and enjoying soccer.”
He added: “That is now not the area of the European and South American groups anymore. This World Cup is exhibiting it. And it will get extra like that [in the future] and I am wanting ahead to it. ”