Japan playmaker Shinji Kagawa slammed the team's World Cup elimination as "pathetic" after Tuesday's 4-1 thrashing by Colombia in their final group game.
“It hurts to go out like this,” the Manchester United player told Japanese television broadcast on Wednesday. “I don't have any other words. I feel responsible and deeply sorry. It's pathetic.”
A three-goal blitz by Colombia in the second half ended Japan's slender hopes of reaching the knockout stage in Brazil after a 2-1 defeat by Ivory Coast and a 0-0 draw with Greece.
Japan’s talismanic midfielder Keisuke Honda, who had declared defiantly that the Asian champions could win the World Cup, cut a forlorn figure after the match.
“It's embarrassing,” he said, pain etched across his face and fighting back tears.
“After I’d said Japan would win the tournament, in the end it finished with just empty talk,” added Honda, who dismissed talk of international retirement.
“I said from the start that I intended on going to the next (tournament). We simply weren't good enough at this World Cup. We've still got a lot to learn. I'm extremely sorry.”
Japan, who reached the last 16 four years ago, flew to Brazil confident of progressing from Group C. They had been set a target of reaching the quarter-finals by the country's FA boss Kuniya Daini.
However, the Blue Samurai unravelled against Ivory Coast and 10-man Greece, who advanced behind group winners Colombia.
“We still have a long way to go,” said right-back Atsuto Uchida, hinting that he might not play again for the national side.
“I've thought about (retiring) but I just hadn't told people about it,” added the 26-year-old defender, one of the few Japan players to emerge with credit from a chastening World Cup campaign.
“I hope we see new heroes play for Japan in the future, kids who are at primary school now.”
Striker Yoshito Okubo, a surprise World Cup pick by Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, apologised after another wasteful display.
“We knew we had to show some fight,” said Okubo, who squandered point-blank chances against Ivory Coast and Colombia. “I just feel numb right now.”