TOKYO - New Japan coach Javier Aguirre has demanded the Blue Samurai play with cool heads as well as their hearts following their World Cup flop, local media reported on Friday.
The 55-year-old, who led his native Mexico to the last 16 of the World Cup in 2002 and 2010, has identified a lack of staying power as one of the causes for Japan's failure to win any of their matches in Brazil.
"In all their three games they made a good start but weren't quite strong enough to convert that into the right result," Aguirre told the Daily Sports newspaper. "I want to see strength in the latter stages of games.
"That means when they are leading with five minutes to go, they don't get turned over. Keeping hold of a lead is also part of controlling a game." Asian champions Japan were beaten 2-1 by Ivory Coast, held to a goalless draw by a 10-man Greece and thumped 4-1 by Colombia at the World Cup, ending the four-year reign of Italian Alberto Zaccheroni.
Aguirre added: "We will pay due respect to the work carried out (by Zaccheroni) and continue to play the Japanese way. That is to retain possession and to attack in numbers." But in a clear warning to his players, the Mexican demanded more from Japan before his first game in charge against Uruguay in Sapporo on September 5, followed by another home friendly with Venezuela in Yokohama on September 9.
"At the end of games I want the team to keep attacking with intensity," said the former Espanyol manager. "It's important to stay focused, because that's where games are won or lost." Talking to Spanish daily Marca, Aguirre said: "I want to bring a more competitive edge, better game control and a Latin cunning." Aguirre, poised to become Japan's highest-paid coach ever on an estimated salary of almost $2.5 million, refused to be drawn on the next World Cup in Russia four years from now.
"We need to qualify first, then talk about setting targets," he said. "It would be my fifth World Cup (as player and coach) and that's a big challenge, for sure. But even in 2002 and 2010 Mexico had to overcome difficult situations in qualifying.
"Everything is a process. I have a very good impression of Japan and I'm highly motivated." Japan reached the last 16 of the 2002 World Cup as co-hosts under Frenchman Philippe Troussier and reached the knockout stages again in 2010, in Takeshi Okada's second spell in charge.