Japan coach faces review after Iraq World Cup qualifying draw

Tokyo (AFP) – Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic was facing a performance review on Wednesday after a 1-1 draw with Iraq set back his team’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

Japan’s football chief was left fuming by the result in neutral Tehran, saying hot conditions were no excuse for the disappointing result.

“(The heat) is not an excuse. We could have potentially lost the match,” Japan FA chief Kozo Tashima told reporters, according to Kyodo News agency.

“We need to feel fortunate that we took a point from here.”

The Blue Samurai took an early lead but they lacked intensity in the second half, when the Iraqis equalised in the 73rd minute.

Japan missed the chance to take a three-point cushion at the top of Group B, ahead of their final games against Saudi Arabia and Australia who are both just one point back.

Despite the setback, Japan will advance to next year’s World Cup in Russia if they beat Australia at home on August 31.

When asked if Bosnia’s Halilhodzic would keep his job, JFA technical director Akira Nishino said “of course”, according to the Nikkan Sports daily.

But he added: “A review is needed. There was enough time. How was our preparation until today? We must have a full grasp on that.”

Halilhodzic said he was “disappointed” by his side’s showing, adding that injuries hampered the team and that his team were “exhausted”.

“I am absolutely not satisfied,” he told reporters after the Tuesday match in Tehran.

“I told the team at half-time that we can kill off the game if we score a second but then we let one in. We were exhausted, and could not carry out the plan we had in place.”

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