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Date: 8/17/2017

Japan’s men’s handball teams at any level, have never reached the last eight of any IHF world championship.

Their youth side finished 17th and 20th in their previous two appearances in this competition, the junior side have only managed as high as 11th in their four appearances, and the men’s side went as far 10th previously - although these final positions were not all under the same format that the competitions follow now, with fewer sides competing in some cases.

The women’s sides from Japan have fared much better, finishing as high as seventh place in the women’s youth world championships and eighth in the junior championships with the women’s senior team finishing seventh out of eight teams in the 1965 world championship.

“It’s a great memory of my life but it’s a challenge to go higher now,” said Japan coach Tsutomu Tokoro after his side made a small piece of history. “I knew before that if we won it would be history for our male sides and I told the players this in our pre-match meeting.”

Maybe he forgot or maybe he was not listening, but for Japanese best player of the match Rennosuke Tokuda, it was a surprise to be told he was part of the first-ever Japanese men’s team to make it to the final eight of a world championship.

“I didn’t know it was the best-ever,” said Tokuda after the historic match. “This team is very happy, but my dream is to be senior national player and this result is just step one.”

Egypt threw away a seven-goal (23:16) lead midway through the second half as Japan mounted one of the best goal chases in IHF youth championship history to eventually win 31:30.

“I just told them I am very proud of them,” answered Tokuda with a strained throat when asked what he said in the changing room to his squad after the match. “My throat is no problem, but I will move onto our next game although the players can celebrate for two hours.

“We wanted to disturb the two against two in the centre of the court and that’s why I got the defensive line in place like that - everybody had to take care of everyone in their one-on-one positions.”

“Everybody in the team should have won the best player today,” said Tokuda about his award after the match, “but I thought Hikaru Nakamura, particularly, in goal deserved it.”

Tokuda scored two goals in the last five minutes to seal the win, with the last one killing the game as he stole in between the Egyptian defence to complete the come-from-behind win.

“I realised that I could shoot but it was very important to control the move of the goalkeeper,” said Tokuda, who snatched a goal in goal chase from his quick thinking direct from an Egypt restart. 

“Even at seven goals behind I thought I could get the winning goal and right from the beginning of the match I always aim to intercept an easy pass.

“I am very happy to get into the last eight, but I want to go up more, a lot more. My team and I never give up and that’s why we caught Egypt up and beat them.”

For Tokuda, the result is part of the wider plan as Japan looks to the future. “Especially in the defence we should do what we are doing now, but it must connect to the stages of our next generation; the U21 and senior sides.

“For now, in Georgia, our preparation is all about the mental side, not the physical.”