Having come to the uneviable decision of terminating the contract of national team coach Javier Aguirre on Tuesday, the Japan Football Association now faces the question of who to replace him with. There is no easy answer.
JFA officials indicated that with the start of Asian qualifying for the 2018 World Cup just months away, they are leaning toward keeping to their policy of hiring a foreign manager with international experience.
"It's important not to go off course when we make adjustments as the need arises," said Masahiro Shimoda, head of the JFA's technical committee.
If possible, the JFA would like to have the new boss in place in time for international friendlies against Tunisia on March 27 and Uzbekistan four days later.
The JFA will be searching the world market just six months after Aguirre was hired to replace Italian Alberto Zaccheroni.
However, with European leagues running until around May, the JFA may find it difficult to find an effective manager who isn't currently employed.
"Japan has gradually gained in status through the years," Shimoda said. "I believe there is a manager out there who wants to help Japan get stronger."
JFA president Kuniya Daini said that nationality will not be a factor, leaving the door open for a Japanese coach to be hired. He said the association could hire an interim manager if necessary.
"I'd like to have it done by March, but I don't want to force it to make it by then," Daini said.
The JFA and Aguirre parted ways on Tuesday because the association did not want the Mexican's current legal problems in Spain to be a distraction leading up the Cup qualifiers starting in June.
Aguirre had been linked to a match-fixing scandal from 2011, when he was coach of first-division Spanish league side Zaragoza.
A Spanish court recently accepted prosecutors' charges against Aguirre, meaning the case will proceed, and that led to the JFA decision.
Aguirre has firmly denied the accusations, but accepted the JFA's decision and wished the team well in the future.
Under Aguirre, Japan failed to defend its title at the recently completed Asian Cup in Australia.
The Samurai Blue were eliminated in the quarterfinals on penalties by the United Arab Emirates, but Daini emphasised that the early exit was not a factor in the decision to dismiss the Mexican.
Hearing set for Aguirre
Meanwhile, Spanish media has reported that a preliminary judge in the Valencia court has set a date of Feb. 27 for Aguirre's first hearing into the alleged match-fixing case.
A total of 41 players and others involved in the match between Zaragoza and Levante under suspicion of being fixed will be called to hearings that will run from Feb. 25 to May 6, the reports said.
In Japan, Aguirre's players offered support for their former coach.
"He had a passion for football and there was so much we could learn from his approach to the game," Gamba Osaka star midfielder Yasuhito Endo said at the team's ground in Osaka on Wednesday. "He is a fantastic coach."Speech