Tokyo (AFP) – Japan has fired national football coach Vahid Halilhodzic just two months before the World Cup, after a series of disappointing performances by the Blue Samurai, local media reported Monday.
Kyodo news agency cited Japan Football Association president Kozo Tashima as saying a successor would be named later Monday at a press conference.
The move comes after months of tension over Halilhodzic’s perfomance, with the Franco-Bosnian being forced to rebut rumours late last year that he was facing the axe.
After being hired in March 2015, he steered the national team to qualification for the finals in Russia in June, but he has been panned for the team’s poor showing in a series of recent international friendlies.
Last September he fired back at critics and said he had no plans to step aside, despite calls for his resignation.
“To those who attacked me I say: bad luck for you but I’m going to carry on doing my job — until when, we’ll see.”
Local media has reported tensions between Halilhodzic and his team over his undiplomatic style, with the Sports Hochi daily saying Monday “a sense of unity was lacking” between the coach and his players.
The Nikkan Sports daily said Monday that “the association made the decision as it has a growing sense of crisis over the team’s performance which has shown no sign of improvement with fewer than 70 days until the World Cup”.
Japan faces a tough group, with opening matches against Colombia and Senegal before it faces off against Poland.
It will be the sixth successive World Cup appearance by the Blue Samurai, who made it to the last 16 in 2002 when Japan co-hosted the tournament with South Korea and again in 2010.