'A miracle!': Japan fans explode with joy after Ireland upset
Tokyo (AFP) –
Japanese rugby supporters exploded with joy in fanzones, bars and living rooms across the country on Saturday as the Rugby World Cup hosts pulled off the tournament's biggest upset yet, beating highly-fancied Ireland.
It was pandemonium at the official fanzone in central Ginza, where hundreds of fans -- many in the red and white striped kit of the Brave Blossoms -- crammed in to cheer the team to the stunning 19-12 win in Shizuoka.
"This is really historic. There is no doubt about it," Akira Ueda, a travel agency employee, said surrounded by delighted fans.
"Today's victory definitely comes in part from the incredible support from the fans," he told AFP.
The stunning win showed Japan still possesses the giant-killing abilities that led to the so-called "Miracle of Brighton," when they toppled South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.
"The victory proved that Japan's win against South Africa was not just plain luck," said Ueda, 30.
"I'll be supporting the team all the way to the end!"
It was a breathtaking performance by the host, underdogs even in the open field in this year's tournament.
Ireland started strong, but Japan grew into the match, helped by an ebullient home crowd of 47,000 and the knowledge that fans across the country were cheering them on.
- Nippon! Nippon! -
In Tokyo, supporters in the official fanzone chanted in unison "Nippon, Nippon! (Japan, Japan!) as the team picked up the pace in the second half.
"It's great, great, great. I'm so excited," said Saki Tamade, a 29-year-old IT engineer.
"I usually don't watch rugby games a lot, but I have been following the team this time and I'll be continuing to for sure," she said.
When the final whistle blew, confirming the unthinkable result, a roar went up that filled all three floors of the fanzone, with fans toasting each other with beers, grins plastered across their faces.
"I never thought Japan could win before the game," admitted Takashi Nakatsubo, a 43-year-old retailer.
"The victory came not just from individual players but from the entire team," he added.
"Now Japan has a great chance of advancing to the tournament's last eight or even last four or even higher," he said.
The Blossoms are targeting a first-ever place in the last eight, having seen off Russia in the tournament's opener. But they know they still have no margin for error in the games ahead in the group, against Samoa and Scotland.
In Shizuoka, supporters chanted in English and Japanese as they left the stadium, where fireworks lit up the sky to celebrate the incredible win.
"Honestly, I thought we were going to lose, so seeing such a great game and to top it off winning it really is a miracle!" Hideo Kawarabayashi said outside the venue.
And even Ireland supporters conceded there would be no hard feelings seeing the hosts make away with such an expected win.
Sean McGouren, 27, who watched the match at the Tokyo fanzone, said he was "sad, but also very happy, very happy."
"If I have to lose, I would like to lose against Japan. Japan were very, very good, very amazing today."
© 2019 AFP