Tokyo (AFP) – Akira Nishino, who has taken over Japan’s national team just months before the World Cup, is an experienced domestic coach who was at the helm for one of Japanese football’s greatest moments: a 1-0 Olympic win over a Brazil side containing Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo.
The 1996 triumph at the Atlanta Games is known as the “Miracle of Miami”. Japan will be hoping for miracles again after sensationally sacking Vahid Halilhodzic with just 70 days until the Blue Samurai start their World Cup campaign against Colombia.
Formerly technical director for the Japan Football Association, the 63-year-old Nishino is an ex-international midfielder capped 12 times for his country and can point to an impressive haul of domestic silverware.
He managed J-League outfit Gamba Osaka for 10 years from 2002, winning the league title in 2005 and scooping the coach of the year award in the process.
In 2008 he took the club to its first Asian Club Championship with a 5-0 aggregate win over Adelaide United, prompting Nishino to say: “I have achieved my biggest goal.”
This earned Gamba Osaka probably the biggest match in their history — a World Club Cup semi-final with English Premiership giants Manchester United.
However, despite hopeful talk of a “Miracle of Yokohama” — a nod to the 1996 win — Gamba succumbed in a 5-3 thriller to a powerful United side boasting Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs.
Nishino has also managed J-League teams Nagoya Grampus, Kashiwa Reysol and Vissel Kobe.
He has often been mentioned as a possible boss of the national side and was touted — along with long-term Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger — as a possible replacement when Philippe Troussier’s job was on the line in 2000.
When he was appointed as new boss of Nagoya Grampus, the general manager called him the “commander of commanders”.
Despite the euphoria surrounding the 1996 win over Brazil, his tactics of tight defence and counter-attacks came under fire as being boring.
However, he later wrote a manifesto on “the thrills of attacking football” in 2012, setting out an offensive style of play.
Japan Football Association chief Kozo Tashima noted that Nishino brought both domestic and international experience to the table and was “uniquely qualified” to take the team to Russia.
Given the short amount of time until the World Cup kicks off, the association said it had decided to promote a manager who has been watching the team intently from within.