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New Japan coach eyes World Cup second round

Tokyo (Japan) (AFP) – Japan’s new football coach said Thursday he was aiming to get the Blue Samurai out of a tricky World Cup group, days after being parachuted in as an “emergency measure”.

“I want to get through the first round, of course. I think we will be fully competitive and will be able to challenge,” Akira Nishino told a packed press conference in Tokyo.

Japan have a tough group in Russia this summer, drawn against Colombia, Poland and Senegal.

Nishino, 63, was drafted in on Monday as an “emergency measure” — in the words of the Japan Football Association boss — just two months before the team kicks off its World Cup campaign.

He takes over from Vahid Halilhodzic, who was sensationally axed after some disappointing results in recent friendlies despite taking the team to their sixth successive World Cup finals.

Nishino said he wanted the team to play in an “attacking” spirit, adding that he would select the squad with that in mind.

“Without doubt, we have a chance of winning against any opponent,” he said.

Nishino is best-known for his exploits in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where he coached Japan to a 1-0 win over a Brazil side featuring Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo — known in Japan as the “Miracle in Miami”.

His CV also includes an enviable array of silverware in club football, including guiding J-League side Gamba Osaka to its first Asian Club Championship in 2008.

This earned Gamba the biggest match in their history: a Club World Cup semi-final clash with a powerful Manchester United side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, which the Japanese team lost in a 5-3 thriller.

Japan start their World Cup campaign with a match against Colombia on June 19.

They play Senegal on June 24 before facing the Poles four days later.

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