I think all of us would agree that the most potent image of the World Cup games yesterday came at the end of Croatia v Japan, when the Asian nation had been beaten on penalties and their players were stood around shell-shocked and bewildered.
The penalties they took were pretty poor, and everyone involved would have known it. It was a guy who didn’t take one who drew all of our attention, though; it was Daizen Maeda, who has scored the goal in normal time and given them a real chance of going through.
I was baffled as to why he was taken off during the game. Most people were. If you looked at that Japanese support yesterday – and the crowd zoomed in on them several times – you’ll have noticed how many of them were wearing the number 25 shirt. We might not always appreciate the player here at home, but to their fans he’s a hero.
Another guy who didn’t take a penalty yesterday – although I cannot imagine that if there’d been a Croatian fifth that it wouldn’t have been him who stepped up – was Juranovic. But it was his team who went through in the end, and he could have been busy celebrating with his countrymen and no-one would have cracked a light about it.
Instead, he made a bee-line for Maeda and offered him some consolation. What a fine moment that was, I thought. A little human moment, a little gesture of solidarity, but one which spoke a thousand words about our big right back and about the team spirit which has formed at Celtic Park. It’s just like Ange said; you bring in the right people, not just the right players but the right personality types, and you get something special.
Juranovic’s comments after the game are a good insight into that chemistry and that team spirit, and into him as a person.
“Daizen is my friend and I congratulated him because he scored a goal in the World Cup and that is every player’s dream. But I also felt sad for him because he was crying. Football is about sportsmanship and I gave him a little kiss. He is a good friend of mine and he had such a good World Cup with Japan. I feel sad for him tonight, but happy for Croatia.”
That’s pretty amazing for me, and speaks to a strong dressing room and strong bonds within it. In the moment of his own personal glory – getting to a World Cup quarter final is no small thing in and of itself – he thought of his team-mate and friend.
That’s what Ange has built here already. That’s why we’re doing so well. The philosophy which underpins everything we do is that it’s all for the good of the team … and in these little moments you can see clearly how well It all fits together.