Asian Cup: Aguirre to rebuild for World Cup after q'final exit, JFA technical chief says

January 26, 2015 11:49 am 

TOKYO, Jan. 25 — Japan will overhaul their squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia following their quarterfinal exit from the Asian Cup, Japan Football Association technical director Masahiro Shimoda said Saturday.

The holders were eliminated 5-4 on penalties to the United Arab Emirates for their worst finish at the continental championship since 1996, and falling short of qualifying for the 2017 Confederations Cup.

A night after the embarrassment in Sydney, Shimoda, who spoke with manager Javier Aguirre about the future direction of the team, said he expects the Mexican boss to start rebuilding now that the Asian Cup is out of the way.

"Age will never stop the manager from picking players he feels are good enough to play for him, but more and more the selection will be made with the future in mind," Shimoda said. "We want to unearth more players toward the next World Cup."

"For example, Maya Yoshida was 22 when he got his break with the national team at the last Asian Cup four years ago, and is now a core member of the team through the experience he's had since then. So we're hoping more players in their early 20s will start to emerge and become a key figure in the side."

Shimoda, one of two men chiefly responsible for hiring Aguirre alongside JFA general secretary Hiromi Hara, took a subtle dig at ex-manager Alberto Zaccheroni, saying Japan are a better team now than they were four years ago, when the Blue Samurai lifted a record fourth Asian Cup with the Italian in charge.

From a technical standpoint, the JFA sees no reason to replace Aguirre, Shimdoa said.

"That we could only get to the quarterfinals is something we have to seriously think about, but we're not going to decide anything on his future based on that result only," he said. "We're not happy with the result, but we saw a lot of positives.

"Four years ago, we won the title behind some dramatic games and a lot of intrinsic issues with the team went overlooked. But even though we didn't get the result we wanted, I think we turned in better performances and we're a better team now than we were four years ago."

Shimoda added that the match-fixing scandal, which stalked the Japanese team throughout the Asian Cup, did not have an impact on the players.

"We don't think there was any negative influence on the team — any."

"There's not a whole lot the technical committee can do with the problems away from the pitch, but we think he's done a tremendous job so far and we're glad to have Javier Aguirre with us from the bottom of our heart." (PNA/Kyodo)

CTB/RSM

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