During the final match of the final qualification round 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 the AFC qualification and arch-rival South Korea qualified instead. The Japanese media refers to the match as the "Agony of Doha" (Japanese: ドーハの悲劇, romanized: Dōha no higeki),[note 1] whereas the South Korean media, due to the country's national football team only qualifying as a last minute result of this match, refers to it as the "Miracle of Doha" (Korean: 도하의 기적, romanized: Dohaui gijeok).
|Agony of Doha (ドーハの悲劇)|
Miracle of Doha (도하의 기적)
|Event||1994 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers|
|South Korea qualifies for the 1994 FIFA World Cup|
|Date||28 October 1993|
|Venue||Al-Ahly Stadium, Doha|
|Referee||Serge Muhmenthaler (Switzerland)|
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 seven 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 "Never forget Doha" (ドーハを忘れるな, Dōha o wasureruna) remains a rallying cry for fans.
Leading up to the matchEdit
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 15 and 28 October 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 28 October 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, the combination of results eliminating South Korea.
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 finished the match moments after this, eliminating both teams.
|(FIFA Report)||Radhi 55'
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 three-goal victory over North Korea, and won the tiebreaker.
During the final round of the Asian qualifiers, South Korea won the match against Iran (3–0), but tied in subsequent matches against Iraq (2–2) and Saudi Arabia (1–1), and lost a match against Japan (0–1). Had Japan won this match against Iraq, South Korea would have been eliminated even if they won the match against North Korea held on the same day. But as Japan and Iraq tied in the last minute, Japan was eliminated instead, and South Korea was qualified, making the South Korean media naming the result a miracle.
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, after missing the 1994 edition, eventually qualified for 1998 FIFA World Cup, before hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup automatically along with their rivals South Korea. The South Koreans dramatically beat Portugal, Italy and Spain and ended in 4th place while Japan were eliminated in the Round of 16. Both teams lost to Turkey. It was the first time ever for both teams to reach the knockout phase.
They also qualified for every single FIFA World Cup edition since then (up to 2022), reaching the Round of 16 in 2010 and 2018, only to be eliminated in dramatic fashion both times: losing to Paraguay in 2010 in the penalty shoot-out and to Belgium in 2018 by 3-2 after conceding in the fourth minute of the stoppage time after the Belgians set up a counter-attack following a Japanese corner kick. Also in that match, Japan was winning by 2-0 until the 69th minute.
For Iraq, this failure is just one part of the much larger World Cup drought. In comparison to increasing success of the Japanese side, Iraq has repeatedly missed the opportunity to qualify for every World Cup, and, as for the recent 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, Iraq had only qualified for the 1986 edition. In addition, sectarian conflicts and internal turmoil have prevented Iraq from achieving a greater status in Asian football. Since this game as well, Iraq has never beaten Japan in a competitive match, be it friendlies or major competitions since 1982, the last time Iraq won. Iraq also suffered a losing streak to Japan since this game, starting with a 1–4 defeat in 2000 AFC Asian Cup (which was Japan's first win over Iraq), until 2017 when Iraq drew Japan 1–1 to end the country's losing streak.
Japan in neutral site qualifiersEdit
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 edition, and met in the 3rd place match on 16 November 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 before, 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 8 June 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.
- 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.
- Iraqi Football Website
- History of Iraq National Team
- Agony amid drama in Doha on FIFA.com
- The Rising Sun Soccer News: Japanese National Team History: The Oft Era Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine