JFA says Nishino will not return as Japan's coach

Japanese soccer team coach Akira Nishino speaks during a press conference upon his team's return from the World Cup in Russia, at a hotel in Narita, near Tokyo, Thursday, July 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

The Japan Football Association said that Akira Nishino will not continue as coach of the national team when his term ends at the end of July

TOKYO — Despite leading his team to a thrilling and unexpected ride at the World Cup, Akira Nishino will not be back as Japan's coach.

The Japan Football Association confirmed on Thursday that Nishino will not continue as coach of the national team when his term concludes at the end of July.

"We (the JFA) will not persuade Nishino to stay on the job as his term comes to an end." JFA president Kozo Teshima told a media conference Thursday.

Japan's squad returned home on Thursday following its round-of-16 defeat to Belgium at the World Cup in Russia.

The 63-year-old Nishino took over just two months before the World Cup following the surprise dismissal of Vahid Halilhodzic.

Exceeding expectations, Nishino led Japan to its first appearance in the knockout stage since the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

In April, the JFA said Nishino would manage the team until the end of the tournament.

"I coached the team with the notion that I will only do this until the end of the World Cup. I feel like I've fulfilled my duties," said Nishino, who was the JFA's technical director before taking the job.

Four years after a hugely disappointing campaign in Brazil, Japan entered the World Cup as one of the lowest-ranked sides. Few expected the Blue Samurai to get out of their group, not least because of the change at the top.

But following a 2-1 victory over Colombia and a 2-2 draw with Senegal, Japan advanced from its group despite a 1-0 defeat to Poland in its final group match. Admittedly, its progress was down to the fact that it received fewer yellow cards than Senegal after the teams could not be separated on points, goal difference or goals scored.

After a series of lackluster results in friendlies under Halilhodzic leading up to the World Cup, the JFA sacked the Bosnian saying there were communication problems between him and some of the players.

Nishino took over with little time to prepare and got Japan to play a more attacking style which was on display when they took a surprising 2-0 lead over Belgium before three late goals dashed hopes of an upset.

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