Saturday, August 28, 2010

Just who will coach Japan?

If you thought the FFA were slow in replacing Pim Verbeek after the World Cup, spare a thought for fans of the Blue Samurai.

As of August 28, almost a month and a half since the end of the World Cup, the JFA are yet to announce a replacement for Takeshi Okada, a man maligned by his own fans and who offered his resignation (supposedly as a joke according to the man himself) just a handful of weeks before the World Cup after losing 2-0 to Korea Republic in a warm up game.

Many names have been thrown up, including Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa, ex-Mexican coach Javier Aguirre, Jose Pekerman, Manuel Pellegrini, Ernesto Valverde, Marco van Basten and Victor Hernandez.

The only thing the JFA have confirmed is that Okada’s replacement will be a foreigner, and looking at those names above you’d suggest a South American is likely.

Hernandez was rumoured to have agreed terms a week or so ago, but those calls look to have been premature.

JFA Technical Director, who will take charge for Japan’s upcoming friendlies against Paraguay and Guatemala, is under pressure after returning from a recent month-long expedition to Europe with nothing but a handful of rejections.

Hara, however, is confident that an announcement is not too far away, although he has gone back on a previous statement claiming that Saturday was a deadline for the candidates to let the JFA know of their intentions.

"It is a deadline to hear some kind of response. If they want us to wait a little longer, negotiations will continue," Hara said.

That stance seems to be at odds with the JFA President Junji Ogura, who claims the deadline is even further away, stating that the FIFA dates in October represent the deadline for the JFA.

"We've thrown the ball to the candidates and now all we can do is wait for the reply," Ogura told the Nikkan Sports newspaper.

"It's not been easy this time. If talks break down we will have to go back to square one but I want a new coach in place for the two games in October."

Fans of the Blue Samurai have reason to be dismayed by the lack of action from the JFA, with North Korea the only other World Cup nation remaining to announce their new coach. That greatly reduces the field available to the JFA.

The appointment is an important one for the JFA. Although they failed in their lofty ambition of making the final four of the World Cup, they did have a relatively successful tournament in making the last 16, only falling to Paraguay on penalties in a lacklustre affair.

They also found a potential new superstar in CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda.

That said, all the good work from the World Cup will be undone if they leave an announcement any longer. There are just over three months until the Asian Cup, where Japan have been grouped with Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia and preparation will be paramount. If a new coach is only in place by October, that will leave him with as little as 3 games to prepare for the Asian Cup. Hardly ideal preparation.

After a disappointing showing at the 2007 tournament, where they failed to finish in the top three, Japan will be looking to make amends and will be considered as one of the tournament favourites in Qatar.

If they don't make an announcement soon though, they risk jeopardising their campaign, and that will only serve to further frustrate the loyal fans of the Blue Samurai.

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