Japan's Blue Samurai have warned they are tougher than ever after surviving an epic Asian Cup quarter-final duel against hosts Qatar with Borussia Dortmund goalmachine Shinji Kagawa finally on target.
Kagawa bagged a brace to cancel out Qatar's lead twice while defender Masahiko Inoha hit the winner on the stroke of stoppage time as 10-man Japan battled to a 3-2 victory.
Japan fired up when centreback Maya Yoshida received a second yellow card on the hour for an innocuous tangle with Yusef Ahmed and Fabio Cesar curled in the subsequent free-kick to put Qatar ahead 2-1.
"Nobody gave up till the end. I really feel we have grown stronger mentally.
"We've got momentum and coming through a situation like that confirmed our mental strength," added the 27-year-old, who also skippered Japan to the round of 16 at the World Cup last year.
"I felt relieved after scoring these goals after being not able to put away any chances," said the 21-year-old. "It is only when I score a goal that I can have peace of mind."
Kagawa admitted "it was mentally tough" when Qatar scored again after Yoshida's foul, which was hotly disputed by the Blue Samurai.
"But we still had more than 30 minutes to go," Kagawa said. "I knew we would have a chance."
Kagawa would have bagged a hat-trick on 90 minutes when Hasebe fed a long pass for him to trap at the goalmouth but the Bundesliga star stumbled and the ball went loose.
However Inoha, who made his international debut in the 5-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia in Japan's final group match, was on hand to ensure the ball went into an open net, despite earlier team orders for him to stay back.
"I couldn't understand why he was there in the first place," Hasebe said of Inoha.
The 25-year-old Inoha explained that he wanted to make up for his error which allowed Soria to cut through the offside line and score the first goal.
"I pushed ahead as I thought the ball would get loose," he said.
"I caused troubles to the team from the first half and I'm glad I could pay them back at the end."
Source: AFP Global Edition