In fact Japan were looking like going out alongside Poland, after the Polish side claimed all three points with Bednarek's goal.
Poland have been one of the most disappointing teams at the World Cup in Russian Federation and became the first European team to be eliminated from the competition following their 3-0 defeat to Colombia in their second match.
The jeers that rained down on Japan during their 1-0 defeat by Poland in Volgograd may suggest otherwise, but the Samurai Blue's unedifying decision to wind down the clock and forgo the push for an equaliser had "fair play" at its heart.
The result means Japan reach the knockout phase for the third time in their six World Cups but Nishino had to face some hard questions about his decisions for the match at a sweltering Volgograd Arena.
We did not go for victory, but we just relied on the other match.
Nishino then introduced Inui, but Japan barely fought back and were only reprieved after Colombia scored in Samara. I'm not too happy about this but I forced my players to do what I said.
Defeated Japan squeezes into World Cup last 16 thanks to fair play
Jan Bednarek scored the lone goal for Poland as they end the tournament with three points and a consolation win over Japan . Information from Rueters and The Associated Press was used in this report .
Poland defeated Japan 1-0 in the other Group H match.
Japan's time-wasting tactics at the World Cup have been widely condemned.
"The idea was to use players who were fresh and try to get a 0-0 draw".
With two fewer yellow cards, Japan's tally of minus-four points was two better than Senegal, who may feel aggrieved at being sent home for a reason other than the quality of their football.
From a deep position, Rafal Kurzawa curled a free kick towards the back post and Bednarek was waiting to volley the ball inside the near post from six yards out for his first worldwide goal.
That worked in Japan's favour despite their loss, with Nishino breathing a sigh of relief as they became the only Asian side to progress to the knockout stage after a nail-biting end to Group F. Colombia, meanwhile, ended the day as group winners. "Do not go for any high risks.' I told him not to concede any yellow cards, go 4-1-4-1, defensive, and then I told him to tell the team to 'stay put".