• Kyodo

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J. League first-division club Vissel Kobe announced the appointment Tuesday of former Brazil coach Emerson Leao as manager to take over from Hideki Matsunaga, fired after a poor start to the new season.

Leao, 55, who also coached J. League sides Shimizu S-Pulse and Verdy Kawasaki in the 1990s, will arrive in Japan this weekend and Kobe hopes the Brazilian will help the team regain confidence.

“We believe he is the manager who helps us get onto a winning run with a rigid disciplinary approach and never-compromise stance,” said Yasutoshi Miura, head of Kobe’s club operations. Miura will act as caretaker coach for Saturday’s league match away to Oita Trinita.

A former World Cup goalkeeper, Leao was Shimizu manager for two years until June 1994 and steered the Shizuoka club to third in the overall J. League standings in 1993. In his second stint in Japan, he coached Verdy in the 1996 season and won the Emperor’s Cup title.

Leao became national coach for Brazil in October 2000 but was dismissed after the Confederations Cup held in Japan and South Korea in June 2001. He was manager of Brazilian club Sao Paulo last year.

On Monday, club sources revealed Kobe had fired Matsunaga, 42, just one month into the new J. League season. Kobe are languishing in 17th place in the 18-team top flight with five points from six games.

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