1993 Japan v Iraq football match
During the qualification rounds for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Japan and Iraq played to a 2–2 draw in Doha, Qatar. If Japan had won the match, they would have qualified for the World Cup for the first time. Instead, Japan finished third in their group and arch-rival South Korea qualified instead. The Japanese media refers to the match as the "Agony of Doha" (ドーハの悲劇 Dōha no higeki), whereas in South Korea, it is known as the "Miracle of Doha" (도하의 기적/도하의 奇跡 or Doha ui Gijeok).
The failure to qualify and the dramatic way in which it happened caused great disappointment for Japanese fans. Football had become wildly popular in Japan with the launch of the professional J. League earlier that year and the team had never been this close to qualifying for the World Cup. Although Japan has since qualified for five consecutive World Cup finals (even co-hosting one), team members from this match are still known as "Class of Doha" (ドーハ組 Dōha gumi?) and "Don't forget Doha" (ドーハを忘れるな Dōha o wasureruna?) remains a rallying cry for fans.
Leading up to the match
Six nations (Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea) competed in the final round of Asian zone qualifying for two places in the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States. The six finalists played each other in Doha, Qatar in a round robin format of matches held between October 15 and October 28, 1993. After four rounds of matches and with one match remaining for each team, the standings looked as follows.
(Win = 2 points, draw = 1 point, loss = 0 points; tie broken by goal difference)
In the 4th round of matches, Japan defeated South Korea 1-0 taking first place in the standings going into the final match. Although just one point separated the 1st and 5th spots and only North Korea had been eliminated, Japan would have qualified for the finals with a win regardless of any other results. Japan still would have qualified with a draw as long as either South Korea or Saudi Arabia failed to win its last match and Iran did not defeat Saudi Arabia by more than four goals.
The match was held on October 28, 1993 simultaneously with the other 5th round matches, South Korea versus North Korea and Saudi Arabia versus Iran, held in other venues in Doha.
Japan took the lead first on a first half goal by Kazuyoshi Miura, but Iraq equalized just prior to half time. Japan again took the lead with a goal from Masashi Nakayama. The 2-1 score stood as the match approached the 90th minute.
The matches at the other venues had ended earlier, with South Korea beating North Korea 3-0 and Saudi Arabia beating Iran 4-3. This meant Japan would have to hold onto the score in order to qualify for the World Cup.
However, Japan gave the ball up to Iraq, and just after the match entered stoppage time, Jaffar Omran Salman of Iraq scored a goal from a corner kick, tying the score at 2-2. The referee blew the final whistle and finalized the match moments after this, eliminating both teams.
28 October 1993
|Japan||2 – 2||Iraq|
|(FIFA Report)||Shenaishil 54'
After the final round of matches, the standings looked as follows:
Saudi Arabia took first place with its 4-3 victory over Iran. Japan and South Korea were even on points, but South Korea held the goal difference advantage after the 3-goal victory over North Korea, and won the tiebreaker.
Manager Marius Johan Ooft was fired weeks after the match, and the elimination from the tournament effectively ended World Cup aspirations for the majority of the team, most notably the midfield general Ruy Ramos. Only two Japanese players who appeared in the match, Nakayama and Masami Ihara, would go on to appear in Japan's 1998 FIFA World Cup squad.
However, the disheartening result would serve as an inspiration in future World Cup qualification campaigns, and to this day, Doha no higeki is invoked by the Japanese media and fans.
Japan in neutral site qualifiers
Beginning with qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup, AFC has used home-and-away round robin format for its final qualifying round, instead of the single-venue format used in 1993. However, in two of the subsequent World Cup qualifying campaigns, Japan has determined its World Cup fate in neutral site matches.
In 1997, Japan and Iran finished 2nd in their respective qualifying groups for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and met in the 3rd place match on November 16, 1997 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The match would decide the 3rd and last automatic qualifier from Asia and the loser would face Australia in a two-legged playoff. Unlike the match four years ago, Japan fell behind in the second half, but scored a late equalizer and won 3-2 on a golden goal in extra time, earning the nation its first trip to the World Cup. This match was tagged "Joy of Johor Bahru" (ジョホールバルの歓喜 Johōrubaru no kanki?) in reference to the Agony of Doha.
On June 8, 2005, Japan beat North Korea 2-0 to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Although this match was scheduled as a home match for North Korea, it was moved to Bangkok, Thailand as punishment for crowd violence in a previous match held in Pyongyang, and was played in an empty stadium.
Japan qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup automatically as co-hosts along with their rivals South Korea. The Koreans ended in 4th place while Japan were eliminated in the Round of 16. Both teams lost to Turkey.
- The word-for-word translation of Dōha no higeki would be "Tragedy of Doha", but the "agony" translation is used more commonly in English-language commentary.
- Japan qualifies for World Cup