The Japan Football Association reiterated its support for national team coach Vahid Halilhodzic on Wednesday, responding to a report that said the federation could sack the Bosnian if Japan fails to beat Australia in its upcoming World Cup qualifier.

Nikkan Sports, quoting an unnamed JFA official, said if Japan does not win against Australia on Aug. 31 at Saitama Stadium, it was highly unlikely the team would head to Saudi Arabia for its final Group B game on Sept. 5 with Halilhodzic still in charge.

Group leader Japan is ahead of third-place Australia by a point. Saudi Arabia is level on points with the Socceroos, but in second on goal difference.

With victory over Australia, Japan can secure a top-two finish to automatically qualify for Russia next year. Halilhodzic will name his match-day 23 for the game on Thursday.

Technical director Akira Nishino said the JFA remains fully behind Halilhodzic, but also refused to specifically address the coaching situation beyond the Australia game.

“All the talk right now is positive. We don’t discuss speculations or ifs and buts, and the issue was not raised today,” Nishino said after a meeting of the JFA technical committee.

“We just want to get it done at home against Australia and that’s it. We haven’t performed well against Australia in the past. It’s going to be a massive game, at home, and we want to decide it. That is our sole focus.”

“We — from the president to me to the technical committee — have always maintained that we will be fully behind this team during the World Cup qualifying, and that hasn’t changed.

“We are doing everything we can to head to the Australia game in the best shape possible. There’s only so much the technical committee can do, but we are going into this united as one.”

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