FRANKFURT – Japan captain Makoto Hasebe said Monday he feels partly to blame for the sacking of national head coach Vahid Halilhodzic ahead of the World Cup finals in Russia.
“I feel responsible as a player,” Hasebe told reporters after training with his German Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt. “I had the most responsibility among all the players because (Halilhodzic) trusted me with the position of captain.”
The Japan Football Association announced Monday it has terminated its contract with Halilhodzic and appointed former Gamba Osaka coach and the association’s technical director Akira Nishino for the job.
Halilhodzic steered Japan to a spot in its sixth straight finals despite taking the position just months before qualifying matches for the World Cup finals began in 2015.
Hasebe, who has 108 caps with Japan since making his debut in 2006, expressed his appreciation for the 65-year-old from Bosnia Herzegovina but said the team has to move on.
“It’s difficult to think of what to say,” he said. “I’m just focused on what is in front of me instead of looking back.”
The 34-year-old Hasebe is bound for his third World Cup finals following the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.
Japan opens its 2018 campaign against Columbia in Group H on June 19.