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Rumors that Vahid Halilhodzic was on the brink of being fired as Japan manager dogged the Bosnian for almost as long as he was in the job, but it was still a major surprise to see the Japan Football Association push him over the edge this week.

Halilhodzic, who led Japan to a place at its sixth consecutive World Cup, was fired two months before the tournament begins and replaced with JFA technical director Akira Nishino on Monday. Changing managers at such a late stage would be considered bold by any national federation’s standards, but for an outfit as averse to upheaval as the JFA, it was a stunning departure.

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