Japan coach Javier Aguirre has warned his Samurai Blue that there is no room for egos in his squad and says he would have no hesitation in leaving out players who are not fully committed to the cause as he builds toward the Asian Cup in Australia in January.
Aguirre emphasized the importance of playing with pride for the national team and said in a recent roundtable interview that he would have no use for any players putting themselves before the team, regardless of their reputation.
“You have to feel pride when you are with the national team. I don’t need players who look like they are bored,” said the former Mexico and Atletico Madrid coach.
“It doesn’t matter how famous you are, if you are moping, showing the attitude of a loser and not cooperating with the team, I won’t need you. The team has to come before individuals.”
Aguirre has a reputation as a tough disciplinarian and his approach appears to mirror that of former Japan coach Philippe Troussier.
Frenchman Troussier ran the team with an iron fist but won the 2000 Asian Cup and then guided the team to the second round of the World Cup for the first time two years later.
Aguirre, who has yet to win after two games in charge, is confident his players will carry out his instructions without the need for a bulldog approach.
“I don’t have time to discipline the players,” he said. “If I shout ‘defend’ at (players like Shinji) Okazaki and (Keisuke) Honda and (Yoichiro) Kakitani, then they will go by the rules and contribute. I’m not worried about that.”
Defensive errors led to a 2-0 defeat to Uruguay in Sapporo on Sept. 5 and Aguirre was denied a first win as coach after a howler from goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima gifted Venezuela a 2-2 draw in Yokohama four days later.
“We conceded four goals and all of them could have been avoided but we can’t just stop and cry about it,” he said. “We have to prepare for the (remaining) four games we have (this year) ahead of the Asian Cup.
“First and foremost we have to win, that is what I am worried about. If we win, we will be able to relax and be able to train really well.”
The 55-year-old left out several of Japan’s World Cup flops and named a squad featuring seven uncapped players for his first two matches.
He revealed he has four of five experienced players in mind that he is counting on in the build-up to Japan’s Asian Cup defense and plans to continue experimenting with the rest.
“The base of the squad is already there and the first thing I need is four or five key players, veteran players with a wealth of experience,” he said. “In my mind I have pretty much already decided (who they are),” he said. “I will change the other four or five players around them.
“There are players that I am interested in that have not come to the national team yet and I want to try and call them up for friendlies. I don’t want to make selection mistakes. You should use players who are going through a good phase.”
Aguirre has said he will call up Dortmund attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa for next month’s home friendly against Jamaica, along with towering Cordoba striker Mike Havenaar.
Aguirre had planned to call up Kagawa for his first two games but he missed out, suffering a concussion when playing in a League Cup game for Manchester United.
“He (Kagawa) can play in four or five positions up front — that will give me options,” Aguirre said.
The Venezuela game was a sell-out in Sapporo but Aguirre said he was not surprised about the passionate support for the team having already felt it close up in 1993.
Aguirre was there when Japan failed to reach the 1994 World Cup finals after conceding a last-gasp equalizer against Iraq in a qualifier referred to in Japan as the “Tragedy of Doha.”
“I already knew about Japan’s passion for soccer so there was nothing that surprised me anew (in Sapporo) but it was fantastic,” he said. “I watched the game in 1993 when Japan failed to make the World Cup and felt the passion of the supporters and remember how sad they were.”