April 12, 2018 / 1:16 PM / 2 years ago

Soccer - Japan's new coach wants return to attacking football

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s new soccer coach said on Thursday he hopes a return to attacking tactics can help repair the relationship between players and staff ahead of the World Cup.

Japan's national soccer team's new head coach Akira Nishino attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan April 12, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The Japanese Football Association hired Akira Nishino as Blue Samurai boss this week after the surprise decision to fire Vahid Halilhodzic of Bosnia two months before Russia 2018.

Nishino has been JFA technical director since 2016 and had a rapport with the players and understood the set-up which matters given that the finals are close, the JFA said.

But Nishino said the sacking of Halilhodzic confused him.

“At the time of the sacking I definitely wanted to support Halilhodzic, as always,” said Nishino, who cut a nervous figure during his first encounter with the media as head coach.

“On the other hand, considering the team’s situation and the communication gap, I was thinking about how to improve the team’s situation drastically so I was very confused about the decision,” he said.

Nishino, 63, sat next to Kozo Tashima, the man who took responsibility for the firing.

Nishino who made 12 appearances as a player for Japan and said he was confused by the JFA’s decision to fire Halilhodzic due to what it said was an irreparable communication gap between the players and the head coach.

“I felt this kind of gap (between the players and coaches) is hard to fill in and the players couldn’t fulfil the demands of the previous manager,” Nishino said.

Nishino, who is most famous in Japan for coaching the national side to a victory over Brazil at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, also spoke about a desire to play an attacking brand of football at this year’s World Cup.

The Japanese players were believed to be upset with Halilhodzic’s more negative style of play.

“If possible I want to fight offensively and the players want to fight with the same spirit,” he said.

Nishino will have three friendly matches starting with one against Ghana at the end of May to get his philosophy across to the players before the World Cup. Japan are drawn in Group H alongside Colombia, Poland and Senegal.

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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