Foothall: New coach Halilhodzic vows to rebuild Japan, asks for time

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Vahid Halilhodzic believes he and Japan are a good fit mentally and the Samurai Blue have the potential to climb back up the ranks but he needs some time to show results, the new Japan head coach said on Friday.

Halilhodzic, who formerly coached Algeria and Ivory Coast, succeeds Javier Aguirre, who was sacked last month amid fears that Japan's hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup could be hindered by the Mexican's alleged involvement in a match-fixing investigation in Spain.

"I'm really happy to be competing here," the 62-year-old Franco-Bosnian told a packed news conference just hours after arriving in Japan. Speaking through an interpreter, he added: "I feel a huge responsibility but I am here for that reason and I believe we can accomplish big things."

Halilhodzic had been out of work since leaving Turkish top-tier club side Trabzonspor in November and his availability is believed to have given him the edge over former Barcelona and Real Madrid playmaker Michael Laudrup and Oswaldo Oliveira, who are both employed by clubs in Qatar and Brazil.

The new J-League campaign kicked off last weekend and Japanese Football Association officials had expressed their preference for a foreign candidate who could be in place to oversee the start of domestic action.

Halilhodzic said he had received offers from a number of other national teams and even some clubs, but he had decided to accept Japan because he felt their thinking matched his.

"They have a culture of hard work, discipline, respect, and punctuality, everything important for football," he said. "I think the results of Japan have fallen since Brazil but they definitely have the ability to rebound and achieve great things."

His first goal is to get the four-time Asian champions qualified for the World Cup.

Japan play home friendly matches against Tunisia and Uzbekistan later this month before they undertake their first stage of World Cup qualifying in June.

Noting Japan's current low Fifa ranking of 53, he said that Algeria were ranked 52 when he began working with them but that after three years they were ranked 17.

Halilhodzic said he could do the same thing with Japan but asked for time to show results.

"When I first worked with a team, they were in a very similar situation," he said. "I didn't have success right away, but with a little time and a little work, a little patience, I think we will see good results."

The former Yugoslavia striker has plenty of experience at international level and helped Algeria to a last-16 berth at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where they were beaten by eventual winners Germany.

He also helped Ivory Coast qualify for the 2010 finals but was controversially sacked before the tournament in South Africa.