July 6, 2018
Narita, Chiba Pref.- Akira Nishino, who led the Japanese national soccer team to the last 16 at the FIFA World Cup in Russia as its coach, will step down from the post once his current term expires at the end of this month, it was learned Thursday.
At a press conference in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, Japan Football Association President Kozo Tashima said, "When the JFA asked Nishino to take up the post, both sides agreed that his tenure as coach would terminate upon the end of the World Cup, regardless of the team's results."
"We didn't try to persuade him to stay," Tashima said. "Nishino is set to quit as coach of the national team at the end of July."
"From the very moment I accepted the post, I've kept going with an intention of doing the job until the end of the World Cup," Nishino told the same press conference. "Now I feel I've fulfilled my task."
Tashima said that work to select the next national team coach has yet to start.
Nishino, 63, then head of the JFA's Technical Committee, replaced Vahid Halilhodzic, who was suddenly sacked as coach of the Japanese national team, nicknamed the Samurai Blue, in April, only two months before the start of the quadrennial tournament.
Nishino had only a short time to prepare the national team for the event. But the team advanced to the knockout stage, winning a total of four points in the group phase with one win, one loss and one draw.
The last time Japan made it through to the round of 16 was at the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
In the ongoing tournament, Japan, which is currently at 61st place in the FIFA world rankings, was eliminated in the knockout round with a 3-2 defeat to third-ranked Belgium, failing in its attempt to grab its first-ever World Cup quarterfinal berth.
In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nishino served as coach of the Japanese national soccer team, bringing about the "Miracle of Miami," or the Asians' 1-0 upset over Brazil in a group stage match fought in a stadium in Miami.
In the Japanese Professional Football League, better known as J.League, Nishino led such teams as Kashiwa Reysol and Gamba Osaka. As coach, he won a total of 270 matches in the league's J1 top division, the most achieved by any coach.
On Thursday morning, Nishino and the 23 Samurai Blue players, including team captain Makoto Hasebe, returned home from Russia, arriving at Narita International Airport on a chartered flight.
At the airport, they were greeted by a crowd of some 800 people, including fans and reporters. Supporters were seen calling their names and shouting, "Thank you" and "Well done."
Hasebe, with a smile, received a bunch of flowers from an airline staffer.
Nishino praised the Samurai Blue members' performances at the World Cup in Russia. "Our players competed strongly," he told reporters. "I think that Japan now has the ability to break the wall of the last 16 at the next World Cup." Jiji Press
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