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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK

Japan salutes gallant effort

Japan has applauded coach Phillipe Troussier and his team for a gallant World Cup performance after their 1-0 second round defeat by Turkey.

Japan exceeded expectations and also erased the memory of their World Cup debut four years ago, when they lost three times and scored just one goal.

"You couldn't reach the best eight, but you played gallantly against a tough opponent and gave courage to all of Japan. Thank you," said the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

"The tireless battle of these youths - with their hair dyed red and gold and silver - showed us a future in which this country is energetic and diverse."

After a decade of economic stagnation and political stalemate, Japan's football success has instilled some much needed optimism in the country.

"The team's success has given a ray of hope and encouragement to the Japanese people, who have lost confidence lately," said an editorial in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

"We have indeed been given vitality by our young soccer players."

Metropolitan daily Tokyo Shimbun said the nation could learn lessons from the national team.

"To be independent, to take responsibility, to be unified, to be patient, to be forgiving, to be inspired, to reflect, to persevere and to give thanks."

The co-hosts' departure was made harder to bear by South Korea's thrilling extra-time victory over Italy.

But while some older Japanese were resentful of South Korean's victory, younger fans did not begrudge their co-hosts their success.

"I would definitely support South Korea," said college student Yuki Kawamura.

"I've been interested in South Korean movies and music. So I will support their soccer team this time."

Crowds of youthful Japanese supporters joined ethnic Korean residents in their celebrations in Tokyo late on Tuesday.

"We wish we were in their position," said journalist Junji Noda. "But since we're not, I'd like to see Korea win. It would be great for Asian soccer."


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