Japan failed to defend their Asian Cup crown in Australia


Firebrand Vahid Halilhodzic on Friday promised to repair Japan’s shattered confidence and restore fragile egos as the Franco-Bosnian was unveiled as the new Blue Samurai coach.

“I was extremely honoured to accept the offer to coach Japan,” the 62-year-old told a news conference a few hours after arriving in Tokyo.Β 

“Japan have slipped since last year’s World Cup and certain things need to improve. But they have some quality players with good technique and discipline, so I’m optimistic about getting back to winning ways.”

Halilhodzic, who steered Algeria to the knockout stages of the World Cup in Brazil, called for patience after replacing Mexican Javier Aguirre, who was sacked last month following Japan’s Asian Cup flop amid allegations of match-fixing dating back to a previous tenure in Spain.

“Clearly the team is low on confidence,” he said without naming anyone, though the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda have struggled in recent months.

“One or two of the players were better a few years ago than they are now. It’s my job to fix this. I will talk to all the players about my philosophy and remind them of their abilities. There’s a lot of hard work to be done and it will take time — please be patient.”

Halilhodzic, who was teased by a French satirical puppet show who named his ranting character “Coach Vahid” while he was manager of Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain, fired a warning at Japan’s press, ordering them to show courtesy and respect his methods.

“Listen, I’ve been in delicate situations like this before and results don’t happen overnight,” he said.Β 

“Criticism comes with the territory but I want a respectful and proper relationship with the media.”

– Right man for the job –

Halilhodzic is set to earn an estimated salary of 2.0 million euros ($2.27 million) through to the 2018 Russia World Cup.

But the former Yugoslavia striker insisted he was the man for the job, despite confessing he was not a fan of sushi.

“My family are more into sushi than me,” he said with a brief smile before adding: “Japan have fallen to 52 in the FIFA rankings but I was in a similar situation in Algeria. In three years I took them to 17th in the world. I’m convinced I can do the same with Japan.”

Japan exited the 2014 World Cup with barely a whimper under Italian Alberto Zaccheroni before theirAsian Cup defence ended in an embarrassing quarter-final defeat to the United Arab Emirates on penalties.

Halilhodzic, who quit as manager of Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb in 2011 after a bust-up with the club’s president and walked out on Algeria despite pleas from the country’s president to stay on, warned that no player’s place would be guaranteed under his regime.

“Nobody has a right to be selected,” he said.Β 

“The door is open and the team will be picked on merit. I won’t stand for negativity and I hate losing so much it makes me feel sick. I think only of winning and I am fully confident of turning things around.

“Obviously Japan can perform better than their current form. It’s a huge responsibility but I’m optimistic of success.” –Β Agence France-Presse

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