AL-RAYYAN, Qatar -- For some time now, Japanese football has a tradition and reputation for being methodical, technical and inventive.
Japan like to be in control of possession and to patiently carve their opponents apart.
But if an opposite tactic is what earned them a spot in the Round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, then they might as well stick to this uncharacteristic smash-and-grab game for the remainder of the tournament.
On Thursday, the Samurai Blue played their role in a stunning Group E finale as they came from behind to claim a 2-1 win over Spain at Khalifa International Stadium. A quickfire double from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka within six minutes of the second half proved to be the difference after trailing following Alvaro Morata's 11th-minute opener.
It was the second time in three matches that Japan pulled off such a stirring comeback against one of the World Cup's former champions and perennial contenders -- having done exactly the same against Germany in their opening game.
There was similar drama happening just 50 kilometres away at Al Bayt Stadium but despite Germany beating Costa Rica 4-2, Spain's superior goal difference following their opening 7-0 win over the Costa Ricans was enough to send them through with Japan as the group runners-up.
So, despite a shocking 1-0 loss to Costa Rica just four days earlier, in which they were absolutely abject, the Samurai Blue are somehow through to the knockout round for a second consecutive World Cup while being able to boast stunning wins over the Germans and Spain.
Japan will now have a Round of 16 tie against Croatia on Monday, a game that they should again head into as underdogs.
In the long run, the hope is that aspiring teams from Asia reach the level to match up against European and South American giants in general play -- rather than have to resort to a smash-and-grab victory -- which is unpredictable and may not always deliver the desired result.
But in the middle of a tournament, with little time to rectify things, perhaps it might be wise to refrain from fixing what is not broken, even the manner of Japan's progress does warrant some questions over coach Hajime Moriyasu.
There will be time to assess how the Samurai Blue performed overall when their campaign comes to an end, which will include an appraisal of their future under Moriyasu.
For now, Japan's valiant, heroic -- and rather erratic -- ways have served them well enough.
They might as well keep it up for as long as they can.