Japan eyes new coach

Japan Football Association chairman Kozo Tashima. / AFP PHOTO / Toshifumi KITAMURA

NARITA, Japan — Japan’s football chief took aim at critics of the Blue Samurai on Thursday after the team’s World Cup return and confirmed he was on the lookout for a new coach.

Japan Football Association (JFA) president Kozo Tashima told a news conference that caretaker boss Akira Nishino would not continue in the role after steering Japan to the knockout stages in Russia.

And after the Japan team was welcomed home by hundreds of flag-waving fans, Tashima appeared to take a veiled dig at commentators who slammed their tactics in their final group match against Poland.

Under orders from Nishino, the Japan players ran down the clock despite losing 0-1, knowing unless they picked up two yellow cards or Senegal equalized against Colombia in the other Group H game, they would go through.

“I want to thank all the people who said they hated Japan or wouldn’t support Japan anymore,” said Tashima.

“Thank you for your interest in us. There were positives and negatives but that’s all part of creating a football culture in Japan.”

Japan was knocked out in the Last 16 after losing 2-3 to Belgium, which scored three goals in 25 second-half minutes to erase a two-goal deficit.

“I wanted to improve the team’s chances by one percent,” explained Tashima, who controversially axed former coach Vahid Halilhodzic two months before the World Cup.
“I asked Nishino to produce a small miracle so I’m very proud of the team’s efforts. But I will not try to persuade him to stay.”

With former JFA technical director Nishino stepping aside, former Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann has already been linked to the job, along with former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

“I’ve never personally felt disappointment like that before,” said Nishino, referring to the heart-breaking manner of Japan’s exit.

“I could never have imagined a scenario like that last 30 minutes.”

Nishino noted that Japan had managed to win just one game — a 1-0 victory over 10-man Colombia in their opening game.

But they twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Senegal in their next match.