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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK

Japan's dream ends in tears

By Phil McNulty
BBC Sport Online in Japan

The rain that poured out of the skies of Miyagi was only matched by the flood in a nearby television studio.

Japan was a nation fed on a diet of over-expectation after untroubled progress through the group stages and into the last 16 of a tournament they have embraced with increasing fervour.

Coach Philippe Troussier attempted to dampen expectation by warning that Japan only had a 50-50 chance of beating talented Turkey to achieve the unlikely feat of reaching a quarter-final against Senegal.

The message of caution fell on deaf ears - especially those of the hosts of the fanatical television channel showing Japan's games.

" Our great adventure is over "
Philippe Troussier

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Paraguay goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert have been special guests attempting to keep a lid on the over-expectation.

But Turkey's narrow victory saw the outpouring of joy that has greeted victories against Russia and Tunisia replaced by despair.

After Japan's bedraggled players completed a rain-soaked lap of honour, the traditional reserve deserted a few as a sad scene greeted a nation glued to its television sets.

The female anchor broke down in the face of defeat, and was then joined by a colleague as he fought back tears.

Turkey's comfortable victory brought grim reality back to an infant footballing nation that had actually started to believe the impossible.

In Kobe supporters watched on big screens in local bars and shopping malls. Schoolchildren were allowed to watch the games on television.

It was a scene played out across Japan, with defeat the cue for an outpouring of grief.

Troussier consoles Daisuke Ichikawa

News bulletins followed the defeat with mournful reporters interviewing weeping fans outside the stadium in Miyagi.

The whole nation has become embroiled in Japan's World Cup campaign under Troussier, a man doubted just weeks ago but who is now a national hero.

Troussier cut a soaked and dejected figure as he waved a lingering farewell to disappointed Japan fans having already stated his intention to leave his post.

News footage showed fans gathered in their hundreds in Tokyo expecting victory and reacting in anguish to defeat, with supporters young and old overcome by emotion.

The dream is over, now it remains to be seen whether the Japanese love affair with football that has blossomed in the last three weeks turns into a full-blown romance.


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