Channel NewsAsia

Football: Japan play hardball with target Aguirre

Japan's football supremos have refused to offer Mexico's Javier Aguirre a four-year contract to coach the national team, telling him he must prove himself, local media reported on Wednesday.

TOKYO: Japan's football supremos have refused to offer Mexico's Javier Aguirre a four-year contract to coach the national team, telling him he must prove himself, local media reported on Wednesday.

Italian Alberto Zaccheroni stepped down as coach after the Asian champions flopped at the World Cup, but the Japan Football Association (JFA) will not be forced into a knee-jerk reaction, according to technical director Hiromi Hara.

"He won't be given four years straight away," Hara told the Sankei Sports newspaper. "It's his first time in Japan and we have to see if he's a good fit or not."

The 55-year-old Aguirre, who led Mexico to the last 16 of the World Cup in 2002 and 2010, will pocket an estimated $2.45 million a year -- more than twice what Zaccheroni was on -- to drag Japan out of the doldrums.

The JFA have reportedly agreed on terms with Aguirre, set to become Japan's highest-paid coach ever, with performance-based incentives to extend his deal to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

However, Hara insisted that he had other names on his wish-list if talks with Aguirre broke down.

"I can't say how many (names) but we will negotiate with them in order of priority," he added. "If we just have one target we could end up getting burned."

Japan exited the World Cup with a whimper after losing 2-1 to Ivory Coast, drawing 0-0 with a 10-man Greece and getting thumped 4-1 by Colombia.

Zaccheroni was criticised for his team selection and tactics, while key players Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa were also panned for failing to spark the Blue Samurai.

Japan's performances were symptomatic of Asia's woes in Brazil, where all four representatives crashed out in the first round. South Korean players were pelted with sweets by angry fans on their return home.

The failure of 2002 semi-finalists South Korea, Japan, Australia and Iran could potentially have an impact on Asia's current allotment of 4.5 World Cup berths with FIFA likely to come under pressure from other confederations.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna