Japan 'not discussing' sacking coach Halilhodzic if he loses to Australia
The future of Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic has not been discussed, according to technical director Akira Nishino, despite reports that the Bosnian coach will be fired if the Japanese lose to Australia on Aug. 31.
The two nations will go head-to-head at Saitam Stadium in a penultimate qualifier, with victory for the Japanese ensuring the country earns the right to appear in a sixth straight World Cup finals.
But a loss against the Socceroos, who Japan have never beaten in a World Cup qualifier, would leave the Samurai Blue needing to go to Jeddah five days later and beat Saudi Arabia to seal their place at Russia 2018.
Speculation has been mounting that Halilhodzic, who steered Algeria to the knockout phase of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, would be replaced before the team embarked on the trip to west Asia.
"All the talk right now is positive," Japan Football Association technical director Akira Nishino told Kyodo News. "We don't discuss speculations or ifs and buts, and the issue was not raised today.
"We just want to get it done at home against Australia, and that's it. We haven't performed well against Australia in the past. It's going to be a massive game, at home, and we want to decide it. That is our sole focus.
"We, from the president to me to the technical committee, have always maintained that we will be fully behind this team during the World Cup qualifying, and that hasn't changed.
"We are doing everything we can to head to the Australia game in the best shape possible. There's only so much the technical committee can do, but we are going into this united as one."
Should Japan take the unlikely move and make the switch, the decision would be reminiscent of the axing of Shu Kamo during qualifying for the 1998 World Cup.
Kamo was fired following a loss to Kazakhstan in Almaty which left Japan's hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup in jeopardy, to be replaced by his assistant Takeshi Okada.
Japan advanced to the playoffs that year, with Masayuki Okano scoring the winner late in golden goal extra time against Iran in Johor's Larkin Stadium to secure his country's first-ever appearance at the World Cup.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch