But Nishino's squad, which was the lowest-ranked and considered the longest shot to advance from the group, was emboldened by its opening 2-1 win over Colombia and now is aiming to advance with a bigger win over winless Poland, who are already out of contention.
Ryu Kuroda, a 30-year-old from Tokyo who was also in the Russian city, said he understood it as a tactic but that he "wanted to see Japan score".
Poland were playing for nothing but pride, and were put on the back foot by Japan who pushed the ball forward and applied most of the pressure in the early stages of the match.
Japan and Senegal end the group stage even on points and goals, but Japan advance to the next round on fair play points. We were not happy about the situation of course.
He said his decision to make six changes to his side was down to fatigue rather than any attempt to play for a draw.
We did not go for victory, but we just relied on the other match.
"They are both world-class teams", said Nishino.
Sure to have won no fans after this latest display, starting the tournament in a positive light, Japan will now enter the last-16 short of friends.
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The match was often lethargic anyway in the 36 degree Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) heat, but the stupor was broken at the 59th minute when Poland's Rafal Kurzawa floated a free kick to the far post and an unmarked Jan Bednarek scored from close range.
Japan coach Akira Nishino said he had not meant to settle for a 1-0 defeat, calling his reliance on fair play "a very tough and risky situation".
The fans at the Volgograd Arena showed their displeasure by booing and whistling loudly over the final minutes.
The Poles reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, where they went out on penalties to eventual champions Portugal, and more had been expected after they had finished top of their qualifying group for the World Cup.
Intrigued by a commercial promotion for the game that was clearly influenced by "Monday Night Football", the family attends the match.
An utterly poor display by the Polish saw them beaten 3-0, with their talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski registering 0 goals in 2 World Cup matches, after scoring 16 goals in the World Cup Qualifiers.
Senegal, however, has become the first victim of the new tiebreaker.
In their only previous meeting with an Asian team in the World Cup, Poland lost 2-0 against South Korea in 2002.