SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic insists there will be no room for sentiment when the Samurai Blue take on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the final of the four-nation Kirin Cup on Tuesday night.
The 63-year-old Halilhodzic, who holds Bosnian and French nationality, rejected the offer of taking the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team coach’s job before he was appointed as Japan boss in March 2015.
Japan thrashed Bulgaria 7-2 in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, on Friday, while Bosnia reached the Kirin final by beating Denmark 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 draw.
“Of course there will be a special feeling,” Halilhodzic told a press conference at Suita Stadium on Sunday. “Bosnia is my native land and France is my second home. There are a lot of people that I know on the Bosnia team.
“Of course there is that emotion but this is soccer and we will be going out there trying to win the game. We have got one game out of the way and now our next aim is even higher.”
“There were a lot of people that were surprised after our result against Bulgaria. It will not be easy to score seven goals again and we have to make sure we keep our cool. We are making progress but there are still a lot of things we have to improve on.”
Halilhodzic will have to try to beat Bosnia without AC Milan attacker Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa with both ruled out through injury.
Honda is nursing a left knee injury and did not play against Bulgaria, while Kagawa was substituted with pain in his right abdomen after scoring twice in that game.
“Shinji and Honda have problems. We wanted them to be able to play (against Bosnia) but that is going to be very difficult. But on the other hand this (their absence) will provide a chance for the other players,” said Halilhodzic.
“I want to see what kind of reaction I can get from the players against a team like Bosnia. Bosnia fielded some new players but they played well against Denmark even with 10 men.
“They are a physical team but are technically good as well, and we have to be well prepared.”
Bosnia coach Mehmed Bazdarevic insisted the absence of Honda and Kagawa would not cripple Japan.
“It won’t be any easier for us,” said Bazdarevic. “Honda and Kagawa are both fantastic players but Japan are very good as a unit and have individual quality throughout the team.”
“It will be a very tough game for us against a speedy Japanese team. Whether or not those great players (Kagawa and Honda) are in or out, we want to put on a good performance.”
Denmark will play against Bulgaria in the third-place match also on Tuesday at Suita Stadium.