While fresh angles and differing views are usually encouraged by the media, those from Japan opted to join each other in lauding their team's performance after the 2-1 defeat of Oman on the latest matchday of Asia's final qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
In a tense game during which the hosts threw everything forward as they sought their first win against Japan, Alberto Zaccheroni's visitors demonstrated determination and will power in overcoming the home crowd and their team. The result leaves them as the only side with an undefeated record in the campaign and well-placed to seal early qualification.
"Japan wins, on verge of reaching 2014 World Cup" was the headline of Mainichi Daily News, one of the country's oldest newspapers. The article read: "Japan leads Group B in Asian qualifying by eight points over Australia, Jordan and Oman, and is on the verge of reaching its fifth World Cup with three matches remaining."
Germany-based Hiroshi Kiyotake put Japan ahead with his first international goal after ten minutes, but having missed a couple of glorious chances, Oman equalised 13 minutes from time courtesy of Ahmed Mubarak's sublimely-taken free-kick. The Red Warriors threw everything forward in the time remaining but Shinji Okazaki settled the contest with just a minute left.
The Stuttgart marksman, who is the tournament's joint top-scorer with seven goals, reflected on the memorable win while speaking to Japan Time. "I'm glad I was able to score because I didn't do much else all game," said a modest Okazaki, who had seen a header bounce just over in the first half. "We persevered and found a way to win in the end. We weren't in control today so I hope we can dominate to beat Jordan next time."
While that victory cemented Japan’s dominance in Group B, struggling Iraq could let out a sigh of relief with a 1-0 win against Jordan for their first triumph of the campaign. The single goal by teenage striker Hammadi Ahmed proved valuable for Zico’s side, who moved level with both Australia and Oman on five points behind Japan.
"The Jordan win has reignited our qualifying hopes," announced Aswat al Iraq, an independent news agency in the country. Daily Arabic-English newspaper Azzaman, meanwhile, stated: "A lone goal gives Iraq a precious win against Jordan on the road to Brazil".
As the winners’ gain is the losers’ pain, Lebanon daily Assafir was left to rue their "diminishing hopes", while Al Akhbar remained philosophical by predicting the potential "end of a campaign" to be "a start of a new era".