Japan eye last 16

VOLGOGRAD. — Akira Nishino might be forgiven for pinching himself if Japan get the draw they need against eliminated Poland today to reach the last 16 of the Soccer World Cup.

The match kicks-off at 4pm.

Just over two months ago he wasn’t even in charge of the Blue Samurai and their most recognisable player Keisuke Honda was far from certain of being on the plane to Russia.

Now coach Nishino’s side need only a point against the Poles in Volgograd to make it to the knockout stages, thanks to a late equaliser from Honda against Senegal.

It followed the first World Cup win by an Asian country against a South American side when Japan overcame 10-man Colombia 2-1.

Even a defeat may be enough if Senegal beat Colombia at the same time today, however Japan have their fate in their own hands just months after their World Cup hopes seemed in disarray.The Japan Football Association took a massive gamble to sack Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic in April following a string of poor performances and reports of friction with senior players. But it has paid off handsomely and the doubters have been silenced by Nishino’s tightly-organised Japan playing with pace, guile and no little skill to remain undefeated at the top of Group H in Russia. — AFP.

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