Tokyo (AFP) – Bars across Japan erupted with joy on Tuesday as football fans exchanged beery hugs after their team stunned Colombia 2-1 in their World Cup opener in Russia.
Many supporters, the majority the worse for wear after a boozy evening glued to the television, celebrated with one for the road — while still managing to keep one eye on the clock to check they could make trains home.
In Tokyo, former England captain David Beckham sprinkled some stardust on a city that once sculpted a life-size chocolate statue in his image when he appeared at half-time at a public viewing event.
“You beauty!” screamed Ken Adachi, a 36-year-old computer salesman, almost falling off his stool in a Tokyo sports bar when Yuya Osako scored Japan’s second goal against 10-man Colombia.
“I didn’t think we had much of a chance against a team from South America,” admitted Adachi after the final whistle sounded a little before 11pm local time.
“Revenge is sweet though.”
Thrashed 4-1 by Colombia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Japan’s unexpected victory came courtesy of a header from Osako after Juan Quintero’s clever free kick had cancelled out Shinji Kagawa’s early penalty in Saransk.
“That was so amazing,” squealed 21-year-old student Kaori Hagino, her nails painted red and white in the colours of Japan’s national flag.
“Maybe now we can get to the final,” she added hopefully, downing a gin and tonic. “Anyway I’ll have a few more drinks tonight to celebrate.”
– Police vans –
Hundreds of fans wearing blue Japan shirts spilled out onto the iconic scramble crossing in Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district to chant football songs as the revelry continued.
As many over-exuberant supporters weaved in and out of cars, police perched on vans with loudspeakers politely urged them to obey the traffic lights.
Few of those watching on giant screens in a bar close by cared that Colombia had been reduced to 10 men after just three minutes for a handball by Carlos Sanchez.
“We were rubbish in Brazil four years ago — quick exit, nothing to cheer about,” slurred 33-year-old interior designer Makoto Kawakami, his Japan shirt soaked in beer.
“We’ll take the three points, however they come.”
One or two fans sounded a note of caution through the alcoholic haze of euphoria.
“We still have to play Senegal and then Poland so it will still be difficult,” nodded law student Taka Iwasaki, 19.
“But maybe now we have a chance of getting to the last 16.”
Several fans also paid tribute to the victims of a powerful earthquake that hit Osaka on Monday, leaving five dead and 370 injured.
“I’m sure the players had the victims in their minds,” said 38-year-old aesthetician Mari Takada.
“Hopefully they can provide a little comfort to those poor people.”