"Neymar is probably the best player I've ever played with or against".
This might be the best chance for Belgium's "golden generation" to win a major trophy after being eliminated in the last eight at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016. But the crushing defeat by Belgium didn't stop the Japanese national team from cleaning their locker room until it was spotless, and leaving behind a note thanking Russian Federation for hosting them.
"Maybe Belgium feel the tournament is starting after their three wins, but I'd like to feel we are on a par with them".
While firm favourites Brazil lock horns with underdogs Mexico, Belgium face a risky Japan in the matches on Monday. But favourites Belgium were able to catch up with a remarkable counterattack that ended the game at 3-2 and broke Japan's dream of advancing to the quarter-finals.
"We started off very well, but at the end, right at the end, to have conceded a goal like that, it was not expected", a grim but collected Nishino told reporters. "I want it to be Brazil's", he said.
"This was a really good team, their passing and scoring and teamwork", said 39-year-old hairdresser Kenichi Okegami.
So shocked the Japanese players were by the defeat they just stood around doing nothing in the locker room after the match.
"I love Jimmy to death", said another former wrestler. "I think the group is more important than individuals".
Although Japan would have made for a wonderful underdog story, the plot of a clash between two heavyweight teams is something I wouldn't have wanted the Japanese to spoil.
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