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Hara: I’ll coach Japan for upcoming friendlies

by Shintaro Kano

Kyodo News

For their first two post-World Cup matches Japan will be coached by Japan Football Association technical director Hiromi Hara, who has been unable to sign a new manager to succeed Takeshi Okada.

Hara said upon his return from an unfruitful recruiting journey overseas on Tuesday that he has no choice but to oversee the national team for the two upcoming home friendlies against Paraguay and Guatemala due to visa issues.

During his tour through Europe and South America, Hara, who finally broke his silence on the matter, said his overtures were rejected by ex-Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini and Ernesto Valverde, who re-signed with Greek giants Olympiakos.

Japan, which reached the second round at this summer’s World Cup under Okada, plays Paraguay on Sept. 4 at Yokohama and Guatemala three days later at Osaka.

The squad for the two games will be picked by Hara and the technical committee, and will be announced Friday.

“Valverde decided to re-sign with Olympiakos and Pellegrini informed us that he wanted to stay in Europe in mid-August,” said Hara, the former FC Tokyo coach who has no professional negotiating background.

“As technical director, I have an opinion on what Japan need to do to take the next step forward. Just because a new coach won’t be here, I can’t imagine the players who are chosen won’t care.”

Hara would not name who he is currently in talks with, although he did say there is more than one candidate.

Former Porto manager Victor Fernandez, ex-Netherlands boss Marco Van Basten and Mexico’s World Cup coach Javier Aguirre have been linked with the Japan job.

Hara also said he would consider resigning from his post if he is unable to sign one of the candidates he is eyeing.

“Even if we get the deal done before the two games, the visa won’t be issued in time,” said Hara, who during an hourlong news conference repeated several times that he was confident of striking a deal with the coach of his choice.

“The new manager must have experience coaching at the highest levels in Europe or South America, like the Champions League or the Copa Libertadores.

Hara added that no J. League coaches are being considered at the moment.