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‘I’m not finished’ vows sacked Japan coach Halilhodzic

Tokyo (AFP) – Former Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who was sensationally fired just two months before the World Cup, returned to Tokyo Saturday vowing to fight his dismissal.

Japan named veteran Akira Nishino as its new national football manager earlier this month to replace Halilhodzic after a series of disappointing performances by the Blue Samurai.

“I still don’t understand what has happened,” Halilhodzic said after arriving at Haneda airport on his first return to the country since his dismissal.

“I came here to find out the truth,” he said.

“I was pushed into a tiresome place and feel as if I was dumped into a trash box,” the Franco-Bosnian told reporters through an interpreter.

“I have to fight against what would damage my pride,” he said. “I’m not finished.”

Halilhodzic plans to hold a news conference in Tokyo next week.

After being hired in March 2015, he steered the national team to qualification for the finals in Russia in June but has since been panned for the team’s showing in a series of recent international friendlies.

He had regularly been forced to deny rumours he was close to being fired, and in September said he had no plans to step aside despite harsh criticism.

The straight-talking Halilhodzic has made few concessions in Japan’s famously polite society, and his style reportedly stirred tensions between the coach and the dressing room.

Before moving to Japan, Halilhodzic took Algeria to the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

But he missed out on leading Ivory Coast during the tournament in 2010 when he was fired as national coach just months before the finals following the team’s disappointing performance in the African Cup of Nations.

It will be the sixth successive World Cup appearance by the Blue Samurai, who made it to the last 16 in 2002 when Japan co-hosted the tournament with South Korea and again in 2010.

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