Japan's coach, Akira Nishino, placed the blame on himself for his team's defeat by Belgium in their round of 16 game on Monday.
“Throughout the tournament I was happy with my team, because it played with confidence, it played well … They gave more than everything. After we started to lose I began to doubt myself and only blamed myself. I lost control, and I think we must not blame the players, it is my fault,” Nishino told reporters.
"We wanted to win it. Our team is strong enough and against Belgium we could at least match them, I believed. There were different plans in my mind and of course we started off very well but at the end, right at the end, to have conceded a goal like that was not expected. When we were 2-0 up and I didn't change my players, I really wanted to score another goal and we did have opportunities. At that point, when the free-kick and corner-kick were taken, we wanted to decide and finish the match. Of course at that point I thought we might go to extra-time but I did not expect that kind of super counter-attack and my players didn’t expect that in a few seconds the ball would be carried into our half and it would decide the match," Nishino said on Monday, as quoted by the FIFA website.
However, President of the Japanese Football Association Kohzo Tashima said on Monday that Nishino helped Japan do so well at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
"We knew very well against what kind of opponent we were playing. The sole fact that we stood for 90 minutes is wonderful. We had a united team. Our head coach earned trust among the players as well as [members] of the [football] federation. Thanks to this trust, we were winning at the World Cup. There can be different interpretations of our match against Belgium, but we believe we played well," Tashima told reporters.
He added that Japan deserved to be in the knockout stage as they had prepared hard by analyzing previous tournaments.
In turn, Japan's goalkeeper, Eiji Kawashima, said on Monday that his side was proud to be able to reach the Round of 16 at this year's World Cup in Russia.
"It is a great pity, we were close to victory. Though, I understand [we] did quite a lot. We made great progress for the development of Japanese football. It is really difficult for me to accept this defeat, but I am proud of our high-level performance. I repeat, we can be proud that we played in the Round of 16," Kawashima said.
Meanwhile, Former CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda has announced his retirement from the Japanese national team after Monday’s Round of 16 game with Belgium.
“I am concluding my career in the national team. I am happy, because we have a lot of good young players, and now it is their turn to write the history of Japanese football,” Honda, 32, told journalists.
The midfielder made his debut for the national team in 2008 and made 98 appearances, scoring 37 goals.
Substitutions 'Made Difference'
Belgium's midfielder Eden Hazard said on Monday that teams substitutions made the difference in their game against Japan.
"We were thinking it was going to be like two years ago against Wales [at UEFA EURO 2016], but we were also thinking, if we can score goals, the game is on. We have players that can change a game, we brought players from the bench who made the difference, so today we are just happy to have won and have gone through to the quarterfinals," Hazard, who was named the man of the match, said, as quoted by the FIFA website.
"When it comes to the match on Friday, it is going to be magnificent, because playing against Brazil is always amazing as a football player. We are going to rest really well and going to really try to win that match," the 27-year-old added.
Kevin De Bruyne said on Monday that Belgium would thoroughly analyze their game against Japan and would learn their lessons in preparations for their quarterfinal encounter with Brazil.
"We will learn a lesson from the game with Japan and will apply it to the match with Brazil. We want to stay at the World Cup for as long as possible and knock Brazil out [of the tournament]," De Bruyne told reporters.
Japan was eliminated from the World Cup, while Belgium will play Brazil in the quarterfinal match in Kazan on Friday.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked off on June 14 and will continue until July 15, with the matches being played in 11 cities across Russia.