Nishino stands by attacking philosophy with substitutions

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Despite having to twice come from a goal down to secure a 2-2 draw against Senegal in Yekaterinburg on Sunday, Japan boss Akira Nishino wanted to go for the win that would have all-but secured his side’s passage to the last-16.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group H - Japan vs Senegal - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 24, 2018 Japan coach Akira Nishino during the match REUTERS/Max Rossi

Nishino, who has promised an attacking philosophy since taking over the reigns in April, used all three of his substitutions on offensive players.

One of those, Keisuke Honda, scored the equalizer that made it 2-2 just six minutes after coming on.

At that stage, all-time top scorer Shinji Okazaki had also been called for as Japan chased an equalizer.

Even when the sides were level, Nishino threw the dice one more time as he brought on Augsburg forward Takashi Usami late on.

“Of course in the second half we wanted to win,” Nishino told reporters.

“After equalizing twice I put in Usami – I could have put a defender in but I put in the attacker – and we earned one point.”

“All the substitutes were attackers. I believe I used them well in terms of timing, and all three of them are attackers and are point getters.”

Honda, who became the first Japanese player to score at three separate World Cup, now plies his trade in the Mexican top flight, but he proved his worth once again to his home country.

Nishino praised the veteran for his adaptability.

“Honda was moved wide from the centre and he was very versatile in adapting to that position,” explained Nishino.

“I really wanted to win. We wanted to get the lead even though there was only a short period of time left.”

The draw leaves Japan level on points with Senegal at the top of Group H. A win could have secured qualification for the last 16.

Now Japan turn their attention to Poland in Volgograd on Thursday.

“I evaluate it as a good point,” concluded Nishino.

“Senegal is a very tough team and this result, I hope, will lead to success in the next match.”

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Hugh Lawson