Japan on Monday named respected veteran Akira Nishino as its new national football manager, taking an “emergency measure” after sacking Vahid Halilhodzic two months before the 2018 World Cup.
The 63-year-old 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.
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.
“We thought the new director should be appointed from inside, given we have just two months left before the World Cup,” Japan Football Association President Kozo Tashima told reporters.
“We have asked Nishino to take this position as an emergency measure.”
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.
Despite the famous win over Brazil in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nishino came under fire for being overly defensive. But in 2012 he wrote a newspaper column on “the thrills of attacking football”, setting out an offensive style of play.
Tashima said the “basics will remain the same” under the new manager, adding that a fast, attacking style was “much needed.”