Halilhodzic: I want to do with Japan what I did with Algeria

  • Vahid ​Halilhodzic set for second FIFA World Cup™ appearance as a coach

  • Bosnian guided Algeria to last-16 at Brazil 2014, defeating Korea Republic

  • Japan drawn alongside Colombia, Poland and Senegal at Russia 2018

Though Vahid Halilhodzic has coached several clubs and the Côte d’Ivoire national team, his name continues to be associated with Algeria, whom he led to the Round of 16 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, before eventual champions Germany ended their run.

Following his fine results with Les Fennecs, the Bosnian was given the task of leading Japan to Russia 2018. Eliminated in the first round at Brazil 2014, Samurai Blue duly booked their return to the world finals under Halilhodzic, whose goal now is to lead them to the last 16 when they take on the world’s best later this year.

Discussing Japan’s group draw with FIFA.com, Halilhodzic said: “It’s tight, like all the groups at the World Cup. Poland are seventh in the world rankings, Colombia 13th and Senegal 27th. We’re down in 55th, which tells you everything about the challenge we’re facing.”

Japan coach Halilhodzic gives his reaction to the Final Draw for Russia 2018

A repeat run? The Bosnian coach is keen to reprise Algeria’s performance of four years ago: “We’re not the favourites in this group but we’ll be giving our all against Poland, Colombia and Senegal. Anything’s possible in the World Cup. We’ll need to prepare well and pay attention to every detail.

“Nobody expected Algeria to do well in 2014, but we still managed to get through the group phase, before coming close to knocking out Germany, who went on to become the world champions, and reaching the quarter-finals.

“Japan will be in a similar situation in Russia to the one Algeria were in four years ago. If we’re going to produce the same performance, we have to get our preparations right and go into each match with our sights set high.”

Learning lessons Halilhodzic will look to draw on his experience with Algeria in what was his first World Cup as a coach, and the lessons he learned from their inspiring run. The question is, how can he turn that knowledge to Japan’s advantage in Russia?

“That experience helped me,” he replied. “We prepared really well for that competition with Algeria and we left nothing to chance. We’ll be doing the same thing with Japan. Every coach needs to serve an apprenticeship in these competitions so that they don’t make the same mistakes again.”

Bad memories Japan will once again come up against Colombia. “They’re a side Japan do not have happy memories of, having lost to them 4-1 in 2014,” said Halilhodzic. “I’ve watched that match a few times and I don’t think we’ll be making the same tactical errors again.”

So how will Japan be approaching the group phase? “The matches are all going to be very tactical. I’ve been looking at our opponents since the start of this year and I’ve got a lot of ideas in my head. We’ll see what shape the players are in when the countdown to the competition starts.”

In signing off, Halilhodzic detailed the training programme his coaching staff have come up with for Japan’s players: “We’re going to start off with an initial training camp in Japan and then continue our preparations in Austria before heading to Russia. We’ve got some friendlies coming up in March and June – one in Japan and two in Austria.”

Did you know? Japan have appeared at five World Cup competitions. Knocked out in the group phase at France 1998, Germany 2006 and Brazil 2014, they nevertheless reached the last 16 at Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010.

Find out more about the Japanese national team