Japan coach Akira Nishino has taken a stealth approach to preparations for his team's World Cup opener against Colombia today. Nishino has tinkered quite a bit with his team selection for the three friendlies he's taken charge of since replacing the fired Vahid Halilhodzic in April.
Nishino's tenure began with losses to Ghana and Switzerland before beating Paraguay 4-2 in the Samurai Blue's final tune-up for Russia.
"In the final three games I've just been experimenting, whether it's with the formation or the players I picked," Nishino said following the Paraguay match. "I completely changed the team from the Swiss game, and I wanted to see how they responded. As you might be able to imagine, we've kept a few things to ourselves."
The two sides met in the final group game four years ago in Brazil with Japan needing a win to book their place in the knockout stages alongside already-qualified Colombia, who would go on to reach the quarter-finals. But James Rodriguez's introduction at half-time dashed any hope of that as the tournament's top scorer set up Jackson Martinez's second goal of the game and added one of his own to clinch a 4-1 win.