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I’m staying put, insists defiant Japan football coach

Tokyo (AFP) – Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic hit back at his critics Friday, vowing to continue in the job after leading the Blue Samurai to their sixth successive World Cup.

Following Thursday’s 2-0 home win over Australia in their penultimate Asian qualifier for next year’s finals in Russia, the firebrand Franco-Bosnian revealed that he had thought about quitting for “personal reasons.”

But a defiant Halilhodzic — who reports suggested was facing the axe if Japan lost to the Socceroos — insisted Friday that he was going nowhere.

“A lot of people were very disrespectful,” the 65-year-old told reporters.

“Many people here just criticising me despite the fact Japan were top of the group. If we weren’t I would accept it of course, but a lot of it was gratuitous criticism.

“I’ve responded with results,” added Halilhodzic. “Yes I did think about my future, for private reasons as I spoke of yesterday. But to those who attacked me I say: bad luck for you but I’m going to carry on doing my job — until when, we’ll see.”

Goals from Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi secured Japan’s progress to Russia as a new generation of youngsters blew away Australia, watched from the bench by senior players such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.

“I arrived in Japan with the task of getting the team to the World Cup,” said Halilhodzic.

“I’m not a robot. I can’t hide my emotions and it’s too late at my age to change. Perhaps I am not as diplomatic as my predecessors — and some people might not like that — but I’m proud of my record.

“Everybody makes mistakes. Nobody is perfect, but Japan took a great step forward last night.”

Halilhodzic has faced criticism since Japan began the final round of Asian qualifiers with a shock 2-1 home loss to the United Arab Emirates.

But Thursday’s victory against a disappointing Australia side appears to have saved the former Algeria coach’s job.

“It was a risk picking a young side perhaps,” said Halilhodzic. “But look at France — they have 18-year-olds playing for them. I want to pick players on merit.”

Japan travel to Jeddah to face Saudi Arabia in their final Group B game on Tuesday, but Halilhodzic has already turned his thoughts to Russia.

“We are entering the toughest phase now,” he said. “You don’t prepare for a World Cup three weeks in advance. It starts today because we don’t plan to go to Russia as tourists — we want to make the Japanese supporters proud.”

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