That's just how it is in sports. Sometimes you lose and then on the other day your opponent wins.
That's exactly how it happened in yesterday's final of the Asian Championships, in which the national football teams of Japan and Qatar faced each other and after 90 minutes the team from the Arabian Peninsula could claim the better end for themselves. Although some observers of the tournament were more likely to see the Japanese team as the favourites in yesterday's match, the victory of the Qataris in this game came as no surprise. On their way to the final, they had, among others, eliminated South Korea and in the semi-finals the hosts team of the United Arab Emirates. And they hadn't had to concede a single goal before the very last game.
The Japanese team, who are on the verge of a big turmoil, had rather muddled themselves through the tournament and only managed their first clear victory against Iran in the semi-finals. And in the final the opponent from Qatar was unfortunately a number too big, and the team around the Bundesliga pros Genki Haraguchi and Yuya Osako this time missed their fifth victory in a Asia Cup final. The result after 90 minutes was clear: Qatar defeated the team from Japan 3:1, which as a small consolation can at least claim to have scored the only goal against the tournament winner.
Last night at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the theam from Qatar, who was coached by the Spanish coach Felix Sanchez, took an early lead through Almoez Abdulla in the 12th minute and extended their lead 15 minutes late through Abdulaziz Hatem.
With these two goals they laid the solid foundation and the groundwork for yesterday's victory.
Takumi Minaminom's goal in the 69th minute for Japan was then not enough to put the new Asian champions in real danger, and in the 83rd Qatar got a penalty kick, which Akram Afif turned into the final score of 3-1.
For the Samurai Blue, it was their first defeat in their fifth appearance in a final, but the young Japanese kickers can still go home proudly and with their heads held high. The transition initiated after last year's World Cup under new coach Hajime Moriyasu seems to have been effective, although it was not enough to win the whole tournament.
Qatar, with the win of this year's Asian Cup, is well prepared for the next World Cup, which will be held at home in less than four years' time. And then, at the latest, they will have to prove that this tournament victory was not just a flash in the pan.
Japan will hopefully be back at the next World Cup as well, and maybe even get the chance to return the favor for yesterday's defeat.
Time also heals (almost) all wounds in football, and after every big tournament there are a lot of teams that are suddenly faced with a big pile of broken dreams and a solid amount of disappointment and tears.
And if you look at it from that perspective, the Japanese team was still much better off than for example the teams from South Korea or Australia, who where both kicked out of this tournament much earlier than the has expected.
Therefor at the end, let us say "Congratulations" to the Qatari team for winning this year's Asian Cup and "Keep you heads up high" to the Japanese squad. Next time they will do it better.