Kashima Antlers spoke to the media on Sunday night following their 4-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Final.
The J.League champions were only narrowly beaten thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s match-winning hat-trick and remained on an even plain with their European rivals throughout.
And Ishii says his men’s historic journey as Japan’s first representatives in the tournament’s final is reflective of the progress of football in the country.
Nevertheless, the manager also expressed disappointment at the loss, saying: “It’s only been about 25 years since professional football arrived in Japan, and that’s a very short amount of time compared to the countries of other clubs in this tournament.
“But it’s important that we’ve come this far; Japan has caught up with the world in a short amount of time.
“When the J.League started it was said that we had almost no chance of succeeding in Kashima, our little town on the eastern tip of Ibaraki Prefecture. But we held onto that chance and built this club. I think that by representing Japan, we can inspire other clubs around the world.
“(The loss) is incredibly disappointing. We made Real Madrid struggle. We gave up goals through positioning mistakes or poor judgement, but the players fought hard for 120 minutes.
“There was one moment where the referee wasn’t as brave as he should have been and that’s also disappointing.
“We want to keep playing at this high level in the J.League next season. We’ve experienced a lot getting able to play in this great tournament.
“Next year we want to win the AFC Champions League and come here again as Asian champions.”
Gaku Shibasaki, who at one point put Antlers ahead with a brace that included a superb individual goal, added: “Second place is second place, and it’s disappointing we couldn’t win.
“Even though I scored twice, I feel bad that I couldn’t lead the team to a win. In the end our opponents’ level was just too high and that’s something we’ll reflect on. I wish we’d been able to win in 90 minutes.
“As I said before the match, second place and last place are the same. Real Madrid’s name will be written in history as the winners, and we wanted to write our name.
“We were able to match well against them in some areas but there were also areas in which we couldn’t do so. We have to look at those issues one at a time.
“We learned a lot from playing against a European-level club and we have to work harder.”