Japan becoming the first side to progress via the fair play rule is the Hublot World Cup Moment of the Day
Coach Akira Nishino defended his negative tactics as his side qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup on their superior fair play record on Thursday, despite being defeated 1-0 by Poland.
On a hot afternoon that witnessed quite a lot twists, Japan somehow managed to secure a place in the knockout stages of the tournament where they will meet Belgium, thanks to Colombia defender Yerry Mina‘s goal in Samara and because they received two yellow cards fewer than Senegal.
Nishino’s instructions for his team were to take the 1-0 defeat and hang in there, once news of Mina’s 74th-minute goal for Colombia came through.
Nishino was happy to see his team over the line, and praised his players for listening to his negative orders.
“The players listened to me and were loyal and determined to keep the status quo,” Nishino said.
“It was just the situation that forced me to make the risky call and we decided not to go on the offence and rely on the other match.
“I’m not too happy about this but the World Cup is such that these things happen and we went through so it was perhaps the right decision.”
Japan have reached the knockout stage for the third time in their history but when Jan Bednarek scored in the 59th minute, his first international goal for the Polish, the scoreline between Colombia and Senegal was at 0-0, meaning Nishino’s team, also the last one left representing Asia, were heading home.
But Mina’s goal thickened the plot. Suddenly Colombia would top Group H and Japan were ahead of Senegal despite the same points, goal difference and goals scored – because of Senegal’s poorer fair play record in the tournament.
Nishino revealed that he brought on midfielder Makoto Hasebe for striker Yoshinori Muto in the 82nd minute in order to give negative orders to his teammates – to stop trying to score and get forward and not to commit any fouls.
“I did tell Hasebe to tell the team to stay put (at 1-0), not to concede any yellow cards and go to a defensive 4-1-4-1,” Nishino said.
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