With three hours to go before Japan kick off against Paraguay, hoping to get through to the last eight for the first time in their history, fans in Japan are a) going football nuts, b) confident and c) sorry.
a) Let’s take the going crazy bit: it’s natural for a country whose team is doing well in the World Cup to get World Cup fever. Last night’s match becomes the main topic of conversation between colleagues at work, students at school and even strangers commuting to work. This is especially true of teams that don’t have much history of success in the World Cup (Japan – appeared in the last 4 World Cups, played 13, won 7, lost, drawn 2, best = last 16). b) Japan is confident! Everyone… I asked today (I live in Tokyo) thought Japan would win… I mean everyone! 2-1, 1-0, 2-0, in extra time etc. What a refreshing change from some of the tentative fans of the so-called ‘bigger’ teams and their fans, who always seem nervous about making any bullish predictions when the knockout stages are reached.
c) The coach of Japan, Takeshi Okada was crucified in the build up to the World Cup. No-one gave the team a hope in hell (languagecaster.com included). In their last 10 games before the competition they had only beaten Yemen and Hong Kong, and the team lost twice against their biggest Asian rivals, South Korea. Oh, but how things change: a dour 1-0 win over a poor Cameroon side gave them three points, a 1-0 loss to tournament dark horses, Holland, showed grit and determination, and a 3-1 victory over Denmark showed a more attacking side to the Blue Samurai. Now, websites have been set up just so Japanese fans can post their apologies to Okada. The buzzword for the last few days in japan has been – Sorry, Okada, or in Japanese, Gomen Oka-chan! ごめん、オカちゃん！If they win later, expect Okada to take his place amongst Japanese sporting icons and to have a little chuckle to himself about it’s a funny old game.
(go/be) nuts: crazy, a big fan, like a lot
World Cup fever: be into the World Cup, become obsessed with the WC, watch every game
tentative: nervous, quiet, fearful
bullish: confident, very optimistic
crucified: criticised heavily, be attacked by critics
have no hope in hell: have no chance at all, zero chance
dour: dull, boring, defensive
Blue Samurai: the nickname of the Japanese side