Japan Fires National Team Coach

The Japan Football Association fired men’s national soccer coach Vahid Halilhodzic on Saturday, JFA President Kozo Tashima announced Monday at a press conference.

Halilhodzic’s successor will be Akira Nishino, the 63-year-old technical director of the JFA, Tashima said.

“With only two months until the World Cup, we thought of a person within the team who has best seen them [at work] and that was Nishino,” the JFA president said.

Football Soccer – Japan v Australia – World Cup 2018 Qualifiers – Saitama Stadium 2002, Saitama Japan – August 31, 2017 – Japan’s head coach Vahid Halilhodzic (R) and player Keisuke Honda are seen after winningtheir match REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The national team is headed to the World Cup in Russia this year. In the six consecutive tournaments in which Japan has participated, including the upcoming one, this is the first time the country has fired its national coach in a World Cup year.

The president visited Halilhodzic, 65, where he is staying in Europe and informed him of the decision on Saturday.

Tashima was dissatisfied with the results of recent warm-up matches and felt Halilhodzic had failed to properly unify the team, a source involved with the JFA said.

“After the matches with Mali and Ukraine, communication and levels of trust within the team had weakened somewhat,” the president said at the press conference. “We also looked comprehensively at his overall performance up until this point and came to this decision.”

Halilhodzic became Japan’s national coach in March 2015.

“Even if it’s only by 1 or 2 percent, I feel we should pursue the goal of increasing our chances of winning at the World Cup,” Tashima said.

After losing their first qualifying match, the national team rallied to reach the top of Group B, guaranteeing their appearance in Russia. Under Halilhodzic, the team had a total of 21 wins, nine draws and eight losses.

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