Japan sack boss Halilhodzic just two months from World Cup

The writing was on the wall for Vahid Halilhodzic after a series of disappointing results including a loss to Ukraine and a snatched draw with Mali. Koji Sasahara  AP

"We'll do everything we can to produce good results [at the World Cup]".

Halilhodzic being replaced comes just two months until the start of the World Cup finals in Russian Federation and despite the 65-year-old guiding Japan to its sixth straight appearance in the World Cup finals.

"To those who attacked me I say: bad luck for you because I'm going to carry on doing my job", Halilhodzic is cited as saying by News Channel Asia in September.

The 63-year-old Nishino boasts an impressive array of domestic silverware and masterminded one of Japanese football's proudest moments: beating a Brazil side containing Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos 1-0 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"Sometimes I'd really like them to be more aggressive, more street-smart, more vicious", said the former Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain striker.

By this stage, only a strong World Cup showing would see his contract extended beyond the summer but two more below-par friendly results - a draw with Mali and defeat to Ukraine - saw Halilhodzic dismissed.

Akira Nishino who boasts an array of domestic silverware masterminded Japan's win over Brazil at the 1996 Olympics. Toru Hanai  Reuters
Akira Nishino who boasts an array of domestic silverware masterminded Japan's win over Brazil at the 1996 Olympics. Toru Hanai Reuters

He once reportedly banned his players from smiling, and he found himself in trouble with authorities on two separate occasions after traffic accidents in 2015 and 2017. However, setbacks in recent global friendlies - a 1-1 draw with Mali and 2-1 loss against Ukraine in Belgium in March, with neither opponent bound for Russian Federation - appear to have doomed the head coach.

He also helped them qualify for the World Cup only to be axed just four months before the tournament in South Africa.

Japan will be playing in its sixth consecutive World Cup and has only twice reached the knockout round - losing both times in the last 16.

Franco-Bosnian Halilhodzic, who recovered from being wounded in 1992 during the Bosnian war, insisted he was no "dictator" - but acknowledged his frank approach was capable of "wounding" some people in Japan.

Japan's next warm-up game for the World Cup is against Ghana on May 30.

Nishino faces a tricky group comprised of Colombia, Senegal and Poland in Russian Federation this summer, and they will have just three matches to work with his side prior to the World Cup.

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