- Japan swap coaches 71 days before World Cup opener
- Akira Nishino appointed as Vahid Halilhodzic's replacement
- Bosnian coach departs, after guiding Japan to Russia
Vahid Halilhodzic has left his role as head coach of Japan, just over two months before the Samurai Blue kick off their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ campaign against Colombia, with the Japanese Football Association (JFA) immediately appointing Akira Nishino as his replacement.
Nishino takes charge of the senior Japanese national side for the first time, after stints at the helm of the U-20 and U-23 side - the latter role seeing him lead his nation at the Olympic Football Tournament Atlanta 1996.
The 63-year-old former Japan international represented his country 12 times but is best known in his homeland for a successful period in charge of Gamba Osaka, from 2002 to 2011. That spell at Gamba included a run to the FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals in 2008, which ended with a thrilling 5-3 defeat to a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Manchester United.
The recently-departed Halilhodzic led Japan to the global finals after finishing unbeaten atop Asian second round qualifying Group E - without conceding a goal - before topping Group B in the third round of the continent's qualifying competition.
Halilhodzic's qualifying record with Japan
Round 2 (Top of Group E)
Won 7, drew 1, lost 0 - GF 27 / GA 0
Round 3 (Top of Group B)
Won 6, drew 2, lost 2 - GF 17 / GA 7
His fate was seemingly sealed by indifferent performances and results in the friendly matches since leading the Asian giant to Russia, winning just once in the six tune-up games since achieving qualification. A 2-1 defeat to Ukraine - a side not bound for the global finals - last month was his final game in charge.
Japan's friendly matches since qualifying
06/10/17: Japan 2-1 New Zealand
10/10/17: Japan 3-3 Haiti
10/11/17: Japan 1-3 Brazil
14/11/17: Belgium 1-0 Japan
23/03/18: Japan 1-1 Mali
27/03/18: Ukraine 2-1 Japan
Halilhodzic led Algeria to the World Cup knockout stages for the first time in the nation's history at Brazil 2014, departing Les Fennecs after the conclusion of the tournament. He took charge of Turkish side Trabzonspor for a brief spell in late 2014 before taking the Samurai Blue reins in March 2015.
The Jablanica-born coach will miss out on a second World Cup after enduring a similar experience eight years ago. He was dismissed as Côte d'Ivoire boss just months before South Africa 2010 after guiding the nation to qualification - albeit after a quarter-final exit at the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.