Akira Nishino Eyeing Knockouts With Japan

Japan’s new head coach Akira Nishino is optimistic of the nation reaching the knock stage of this summer’s World Cup. Following disappointing friendly results against Mali and Ukraine in March, the JFA made the surprise decision to sack Vahid Halilhodzic, despite there being just over two months before the World Cup starts in Russia.

Speaking on FIFA.com, Nishino is hoping to put the best team together for the global tournament, and he has set the aim of progressing beyond the group stage, he said: “I will give my all to put together a team for Russia. I feel a strong responsibility. I have been away from the dugout for two years, and now I have to get my mind and body together as a manager. I don’t think we have fallen apart as a team at all. I don’t think we’ve been getting the results we should have and we haven’t reached our full potential yet. I want to get results. It’s the World Cup, so I want us to show that we are good enough to get to the knockout phase.”

Japan has been pitted alongside Colombia, Poland and Senegal in a tough looking group at the World Cup, and they need to play to the best of their abilities, if they are to overcome any of their opponents. Nishino does have fond memories of Japan beating Brazil 1-0 at the 1996 edition of the Olympic games, but such results have been few and far between for the Asian nation.

The 2002 World Cup hosts first qualified for the World Cup in 1998, and they have since been present in every edition. Ahead of the tournament, Japan have dropped to 60th in the FIFA Rankings which is apparently their worst position in 18 years, and they need to beat the odds in order to progress beyond their group for only the third occasion in their history.