Tokyo (AFP) – Japan’s newly appointed national football manager Akira Nishino said Tuesday the Blue Samurai have world-class technique and vowed to build on their organised playing style ahead of the World Cup.
Japan appointed the 63-year-old veteran coach on Monday after sensationally dumping Vahid Halilhodzic only two months before the tournament in Russia.
“(Japan) have had a lot of world-class aspects in terms of technique,” Nishino told reporters in his first public remarks since the appointment.
“The team can compete in a well-organised, disciplined way,” Nishino said.
“It is so important to build that strength,” he said, adding: “We will not seek what we don’t have but further improve what we have been building.”
Nishino will have only 70 days with the Blue Samurai before they play their first match against Colombia in a tough World Cup pool that also includes Poland and Senegal.
Nishino boasts an impressive array of domestic silverware and masterminded one of Japanese football’s proudest moments: beating a Brazil side containing Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos 1-0 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
A former international midfielder who won 12 caps for his country, Nishino is best known for his stint at the helm of Gamba Osaka, which he steered to the team’s first Asian Club Championship in 2008.
This earned them the biggest match in their history, a World Club Cup semi-final clash with a powerful Manchester United side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, which they lost in a 5-3 thriller.
The tournament in Russia will be the sixth successive World Cup appearance by the Blue Samurai, who made it to the last 16 in 2002 when Japan co-hosted the tournament with South Korea and again in 2010.