Tuesday, February 16, 2010

JFA to stand behind Okada

It came as little surprise that Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai came out on Monday in support of national team boss Takeshi Okada despite his team's disappointing showing at the East Asian Championship. (http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/20100216TDY16304.htm)

With four months to go to the World Cup finals, the likelihood of the Japanese going on the hunt for a new coach at this late stage was always going to be slim. Not only would finding a new man to lead the team within such a timeframe be problematic, Inukai is unlikely to risk his own position at the head of the JFA by pulling such a stunt.

Inukai's current two-year term as president comes to an end just after the World Cup and, should he be seen to intervene now and install his own man at the helm, the responsibility for whatever happens in South Africa will fall on his head.

Okada, however, was appointed by his predecessor, Saburo Kawabuchi, and, as a result, any failings at the finals can be deflected towards the man known as 'The Captain' when Inukai seeks reelection. Indeed, having been responsible for the disastrous hiring of Zico for the 2006 World Cup, Kawabuchi has the kind of track record that will make it easy for any criticism to stick.

The certainty is that Okada will be gone after the World Cup, no matter what happens (even if the team achieves his extremely lofty goal of reaching the semifinals), leaving Inukai to install his own man for the Asian Cup finals, which will kick off in January 2011.

Given his former position as president of Urawa Reds, the smart money is on Japan's next coach being a German, with Guido Buchwald - the man who won the Asian Champions League title with Reds in 2007 - a firm favourite. Jurgen Klinsmann is also likely to be a name linked with the position when it becomes available.

That, though, won't be any time in the next four months.

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