Takashi Inui
Takashi Inui, who scored the second goal for Japan, was reduced to tears after the defeat on Monday.ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Japan national football team coach Akira Nishino said the Blue Samurais had headed into the Round of 16 tie against higher-ranked Belgium not just to impress the world but to win and create history.

The 63-year-old former international cut a disappointed figure while addressing the media after the five-goal thriller on Monday, July 2 in Rostov-on-Don as Japan were denied history by Belgium who became the first team since Germany in 1970 to overturn a two-goal deficit in a World Cup knockout match.

Substitute Nacer Chadli scored in the dying seconds of the match as Belgium avoided a shock exit, which has been the norm for the big boys of world football so far in the ongoing quadrennial tournament in Russia.

At the hour mark, It seemed Nishino and the rest of Japan were just half-an-hour away from realising their dreams as the 61st-ranked side were leading the third-ranked European powerhouses 2-0.

The Blue Samurais helped raise quite a few eyebrows when they scored two goals in the space of four minutes through Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui at the start of the second-half.

There was disbelief among the strong Belgian contingent at the Rostov Arena as Japan defied the odds and pressed hard for a third goal. However, Belgium showed tremendous resolve to come back from behind and scrape through to the quarter-final.

The last-minute winner came after Belgium went from their own box to the other end within a blink of an eye. Chadi then slotted a cross from the right into the net from 12 yards out.

Japan football team fans
There was heartbreak for Japanese fans, who went through a see-saw of emotions on Monday.ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Belgium national football team
Belgium celebrate after surviving a scare against Japan on Monday.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images

We were determined to reach the quarter-final: Nishino

Coach Nishino revealed he did not expect the perfect counter and that he was hoping Japan would make it count from a corner they received in the penultimate minute of the added time.

Referring to Japan's Round of 16 defeat on penalties to Uruguay in World Cup 2010, the Japanese tactician said: "And about eight years ago, in the Round of 16, we went to extra-time and penalties, where we lost, therefore we were determined to go through to the next stage.

"I wanted our team to have a different mentality to the ones we have had in the past and I think we succeeded in that. But maybe there was still something missing, so four years from now we would like to come back."

"We wanted to win it. Our team is strong enough and against Belgium, we could at least match them, I believed. There were different plans in my mind and of course, we started off very well but at the end, right at the end, to have conceded a goal like that was not expected.

"At that point, when the free-kick and corner-kick were taken, we wanted to decide and finish the match.

"Of course at that point, I thought we might go to extra-time but I did not expect that kind of super counter-attack and my players didn't expect that in a few seconds the ball would be carried into our half and it would decide the match."

Valiant Japan silence critics, win hearts

Inui Japan Fifa World Cup 2018
Japan took a 2-0 lead before going down in the Round of 16 match.ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Japan's progress to the knockout stage was marred by controversy as Nishino and his men were criticised for employing negative tactics in the last few minutes of their final Group H round-robin match against Poland.

The Asian side were seemingly willing to settle for a defeat as they knew they would finish above Senegal, who were tied on points with them, based on Fair Play Award.

Notably, the African side was knocked out as it had received more yellow cards during the group phase than Japan.

However, within a span of few days, Japan have not just made the world forget about the controversy but have won the hearts of football fans across the world with their valiant Round of 16 display.