Not for the first time, Vahid Halilhodzic qualified a team for the World Cup only to be fired on the eve of the finals.
In 2010, the Bosnia-born Frenchman was fired by Ivory Coast
in late February following the Elephants' elimination in the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
"I lose one game in 24 and now I have been sacrificed," he told the
French newspaper L'Equipe after being informed of the decision by fax. "It's purely political."
On Saturday, Japan Football Association (JFA) president Kozo Tashima at least had
the courtesy of firing Halilhodzic in person, presently him with the news at a Paris hotel.
Halilhodzic, Algeria's coach when it reached the round of 16 four years and took champion
Germany to overtime, led the Blue Samurai to their sixth straight appearance in the World Cup finals but was fired a little more than two months before their first game against Colombia in Saransk.
“There is always a risk when you change managers,” Tashima said on Monday in Tokyo. “There is also a risk when you don’t change managers. If it was guaranteed that
just by changing managers you would magically make the team better, we would do that. But we have considered all the risks and listened to all points of view.”
The move came
following Japan's two March friendlies, a 1-1 draw against Mali and a 2-1 loss to Ukraine. It's the third Asian finalist after Saudi Arabia (twice) and Australia to change coaches since qualifying. South Korea made a change last June, leaving
Iran with former MetroStars head coach Carlos Queiroz as the only Asian World Cup finalist with the same coach it had a year ago.
“Halilhodzic came in and built a team in a very short time and got us to the World
Cup,” said Tashima. “He is a very serious character and very passionate about football, and he conveyed that passion to the players. But the games we have played since we qualified for the
World Cup have led to this dismissal. It’s not only based on winning or losing games. We listened to the opinion of the players and other people but that was not the only basis for this
decision. In the Mali and Ukraine games, communication and trust with the players had slipped a little and we looked at all that and made our decision.”
JFA technical director
Akira Nishino will replace Halilhodzic. Nishino, 63, has never coached the national team but he coached Japan at the 1996 Olympics and was a successful coach for many years with Gamba Osaka.
Tashima said it was necessary to look within the JFA staff for a replacement because of the short turnaround time.
“Even if it increases our chances of winning at the World Cup by
only one or two percent," he said, "we had to ac. We only have two months left until the World Cup, so the new manager had to come from within the organization. Nishino has seen the team more than
anyone else and he will be our new manager."
After Colombia, Japan will face Senegal in Yekaterinburg on June 24 and Poland in Volgograd on June 28.