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Grateful fans welcome Samurai Blue home after World Cup exit

Japan soccer team member Yuto Nagatomo, center, and other members of Japan's national soccer team arrive at Narita Airport following their participation in the World Cup in Russia, on the morning of July 5, 2018. (Mainichi)
Crowds of soccer fans pack an arrival lobby at Narita Airport to welcome back members of Japan's national soccer team, shortly before 10 a.m. on July 5, 2018. (Mainichi)

NARITA, Chiba -- Some 800 fans packed into an arrival lobby of Narita Airport to welcome Japan's national soccer squad back home on the morning of July 5 following their exit from the World Cup in Russia.

The team members arrived at the airport on a chartered flight, and crowds of supporters gathered in the No. 2 terminal from early in the morning to see the players. The turnout far surpassed the 150 or so fans who saw the team off when they left Japan on June 2 to take part in the World Cup.

When team coach Akira Nishino, captain Makoto Hasebe and other players appeared, fans gave them a loud round of applause, calling out "Welcome back" and "Thank you!" Squad member Maya Yoshida appeared impressed with the large number of fans, letting out a quiet "Wow!"

The team members appeared happy as they were greeted, and Yuto Nagatomo and Keisuke Honda raised their hands high in acknowledgement of the support.

In the World Cup, the Samurai Blue advanced through the group stage, but missed out on making it to the top eight, after losing 2-3 to Belgium in the round of 16 despite initially taking a 2-0 lead.

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