Japan are on the lookout for a new coach only two months before the World Cup begins after sacking Vahid Halilhodzic following a poor recent run of form.
The decision was announced by the Japan Football Association on Monday, with the news personally delivered to Halilhodzic on Saturday by president Kozo Tashima.
The 65-year-old, who hails from Bosnia-Herzegovina, steered Japan to Russia as group winners in their AFC qualifying group, but is believed to have been under pressure following the 1-1 draw against Mali and 2-1 defeat versus Ukraine in the March international window.
JFA technical director Akira Nishino has been chosen as Halilhodzic’s replacement with just 10 weeks to go until Japan kick off their World Cup campaign. Nishino guided Gamba Osaka to the J-League crown in 2005 and the AFC Champions League title in 2008, and appeared 12 times for his country as a midfielder in the late 1970s.
In 2010, Halilhodzic suffered a similar fate while at the helm of the Ivory Coast national team, helping them qualify for the World Cup and then being sacked just four months before the tournament.
Southampton defender Maya Yoshida expressed his surprise at the decision but vowed the team would focus on achieving success in Russia.
“You never know what can happen in football,” Yoshida told Kyodo News .
“We’ll do everything we can to produce good results (at the World Cup). It’s all about results in this game.”
Japan begin their World Cup campaign against Colombia on June 19, before taking on Senegal five days later and Poland on the 28th.