MIYAGI, Japan, Reuters
Turkey ended Japan’s World Cup party on Tuesday defeating the co-hosts 1-0 in pouring rain to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.
Umit Davala rose unmarked in the 12th minute to meet a corner and score with a powerful header that silenced a partisan crowd of almost 46,000.
At the final whistle, jubilant Turkey went to thank their fans, who were vastly outnumbered in Miyagi’s World Cup stadium.
Japanese players left the pitch in tears as the hopes of an expectant nation proved too much for them to bear.
“Our great adventure is over,” said Japan’s French coach Philippe Troussier, choking back tears himself.
“Today I was very proud to be their trainer and to have worn the Japanese shirt for four years,” he added. “I say Bravo to this Japanese team.”
Japan were disappointing and showed little of the sparkle that took them to the second round for the first time on the back of their debut World Cup victory.
Turkey, playing in their first World Cup finals for 48 years and also making their first appearance in the last 16, were always in control. They now meet Senegal on Saturday.
“We felt the hearts of 70 million Turkish people beating,” Turkish football federation head Haluk Ulusoy said.
Turkey coach, Senol Gunes, said his team had gone into the game determined to show the world what they could do.
“We have a place in Europe but we wanted to take our place on the world stage,” he said.
“Players who have written history are today writing the future…We are proceeding step by step.” Turkey had belief Midfielder Umit Davala’s header, from a corner by Ergun Penbe, left goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki little chance.
“We were always looking for goals,” the Turkish goalscorer said. “The atmosphere didn’t matter for us today and it didn’t matter who scored because we all had belief.”
Japan, who reached the second round after finishing top of Group H, pushed forward in search of an equalizer and Brazilian-born Alex forced a smart near-post save from Rustu Recber in the 20th minute.
Group A runners-up Turkey nearly made it 2-0 on the break when the in-form Hasan Sas fired wide from the edge of the box after a knock-down from Hakan Sukur, who was winning a record 77th cap.
Japan continued to press, however, and almost drew level three minutes before the break when Alex, who was taken off at halftime after a rare start, curled a free kick against the bar from 25 meters after a foul on Hidetoshi Nakata.
Nakata was unlucky in the 52nd minute when his right-foot effort was deflected into the hands of Rustu as Japan turned up the pressure after the re-start. Turkey were content to look for opportunities on the counter and Hasan caused a few flutters with a strong run in the 60th minute but his left-foot shot was hit straight at Seigo Narazaki.
Japan striker Akinori Nishizawa, making his first appearance since having his appendix out last month, tested Recber with a glancing header moments later after a teasing cross from substitute Daisuke Ichikawa. “Our aim is the final” But playmaker Yildiray Basturk, who had almost snatched the lead for Turkey in the second minute of the match, then blasted just wide as the game began to open up.
Turkey survived late pressure to book their quarter final meeting with African revelations Senegal in Osaka on Saturday.
“We want to go as far as we can,” Davala said. “Our aim is the final and God willing we will beat Senegal.”
Japan, who lost all three matches in their first appearance in the finals in France four years ago, were left rueing the quality of their final ball after impressing in the group stage.
Troussier paid tribute to his “young, dynamic and ambitious” team and said they should believe in their ability to take on the best in the world.
“A lack of experience in Japanese football was a problem but we can be very proud of Japan’s performance,” he said, predicting that the co-hosts would have another chance to shine in the next World Cup.
“The 2006 World Cup is on the horizon,” he said.
“I think the players have proved they are great players and I’m convinced that in the next 10 years we will see a very high level of Japanese football.”
Co-hosts South Korea, also in the second round for the first time, play Italy later on Tuesday in what will be Asia’s last chance of a place in the quarter finals at its first World Cup.
But Turkish coach Senol Gunes had words of consolation for Japan.
“The Japanese team who were eliminated today are a great team. They shouldn’t be sad. They have done tremendous work over the last few years.
“The Japanese people shouldn’t be sad. We will continue to represent Japan in the last phase of the tournament.”