Going into the 2019 Asian Cup, the Japanese football team was looked upon as one of the top contenders for the coveted title. They began their campaign with convincing wins over Turkmenistan, Oman and Uzbekistan in the Group Stage before overcoming a resilient Saudi Arabia side in the Round of 16.
A 1-0 victory over Vietnam in the quarters saw them setting a date a semifinals date with Iran who were eventually steamrolled 0-3 by the 'Samurai Blue'. A prolific run in the tournament finally placed them in the all-important final where they found dark horse Qatar standing in their way of the Asian Cup title.
But, it was Qatar whose spirited run found a fairy-tale ending. Thanks to goals from Almoez Ali, Abdulaziz Hatem and Akram Afif, Qatar lifted their maiden Asian Cup trophy and made their intentions clear ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup which will be hosted by them.
Japan's Takumi Minamino scored a goal for his side, but couldn't save the four-time Asian Cup champions from defeat in the final. For a team that had come agonisingly close to winning the title, Japanese football team and their fans surely suffered a heartbreak following their loss.
While they endured defeat on the football field, the Japanese football team was surely a winner for their heartfelt gesture off it. After their loss, the Japanese squad showed their class by cleaning up their dressing room. The 2019 Asian Cup runners-up left the floor spotless and wrote a 'Thank You' note in English, Arabic and Japanese language as they expressed their gratitude to the organisers of the tournament.
Japan left their changing room spotless after they lost 3-2 to Belgium last night.
They then left a note in Russian saying 'Thank you'
Pure class. pic.twitter.com/7baTFgDfRO
This isn't the first time when Japan has floored everyone with their touching gesture. During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the Japanese brigade had also cleaned up their dressing room and left a 'Thank You' note following their Round of 16 exit at the hands of Belgium - proving why they are football's classiest nation.
Owing to their latest antics, there was no surprise to see football fans across the globe showering praise on the Maya Yoshida-led side for setting an example in the sport.
I love these Japanese players! ðð¼ Even the u16 players when they played here in Malaysia , they applaud us Malaysian fans and bow at us after the match. Top class manners. Respect ð¯ð¯— Abu Colgate (@Harizzu) February 2, 2019
Japanese players and fans are well behaved and respected all around the world for their good gesture— rakeshrussell (@rakeshrussell52) February 2, 2019
That is very nice of Japanð
They have really shown they are a great nation ðâ½ð
Better luck next time in their tournamentð#AsianCup2019
Respect and love Japanese Players so muchðð¯ðµð¯ðµð¯ðµ— Jolie Nguyen (@JolieNg10519393) February 2, 2019
Great sportsmanship, class and respect. Japan leading by example despite losing the final. ðð¼— TheUnitedPage (@TheUnitedPage) February 2, 2019
Every country needs to learn from them.
Similar gesture during WC tooððð¤ð¤
Thank you, Japan, for your respectful attitude and good manners! You are also winners in that respect.— Magda (@almarzoukstore) February 2, 2019
#Japan is one of the few countries who always inspire me with their tidiness and punctuality— Ù. ØÙÙØ¯ ØØ³Ù Ø§ÙØ´ØÙ (@HumaidHasan) February 2, 2019