TOKYO: Crisis-hit Japan would struggle to avoid an early World Cup exit even under Jose Mourinho — that’s the stinging assessment of former coach Philippe Troussier.
The Blue Samurai controversially axed Vahid Halilhodzic in April and replaced him with former Japan Football Association (JFA) technical director Akira Nishino — a high-risk move that had a feel of Russian roulette about it.
But Troussier told AFP that a Japan side bereft of confidence had “no chance” of reaching the knockout stage in Russia, where they face Colombia, Senegal and Poland.
“Even if they play with Mourinho or Arsene Wenger, it would be so difficult for Japan to get to the last 16,” said the Frenchman, who steered the former Asian champions to the second round as co-hosts of the 2002 World Cup.
“If Poland was the first match it would be different. But the fact that Colombia is the first match and Senegal the second — for me, on paper at least they have no chance, no chance.”
Nishino has long coveted the Japan job but could quickly find it a poisoned chalice after 2-0 defeats by Ghana and Switzerland in his first two games in charge.
“I was so surprised about the decision (to sack Halilhodzic),” said Troussier.
“But for a long time the JFA were not happy and decided maybe it was better to take the decision before the World Cup and not wait for the first game to hit the wall.”
The 63-year-old flagged his intentions by turning to Japan’s old guard, in particular talismanic forward Keisuke Honda and playmaker Shinji Kagawa — two of the players thought to have been at loggerheads with Halilhodzic.—AFP