Soccer: Japan's World Cup team gets hero's welcome back home

Japan's national team returned home Wednesday having surprised the world with group-stage wins over Germany and Spain in soccer's World Cup in Qatar, eventually exiting in the round of 16 on penalties to Croatia.

Samurai Blue manager Hajime Moriyasu and captain Maya Yoshida alongside other players such as Ritsu Doan and Junya Ito were welcomed back by a huge crowd at Narita airport near Tokyo.

Some of Japan's Europe-based players have returned to their clubs.

"With individual skills and team effort, our players proved we can be competitive on the global stage," Moriyasu told a press conference at a nearby hotel.

Japan advanced to the round of 16 at consecutive World Cups for the first time but fell short of reaching their first quarterfinal.

Defying pre-tournament odds, Japan topped a tough Group E followed by Spain, while Germany and Costa Rica were eliminated.

© Kyodo News