Sun, Jun 25, 2006 - Page 22 News List

World Cup: Speculation mounts over the identity of Zico's successor

AFP , BONN

Former Yugoslavia coach Ivica Osim has emerged as the likely successor to Brazilian legend Zico at the head of the Japanese national team.

"We have been focusing on one person," Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi said here amid rumors that he has picked Osim to steer Japan on the road to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

The Sarajevo-born Osim, 65, who has been managing J-League powerhouse JEF United Chiba for four years, marshaled the former Yugoslavia to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990 after taking over the national team in 1986.

"We intend to make a final decision this month, or by early July at the latest," Kawabuchi said.

Japan, who failed to make it past the group stages in Germany, are to play their first Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen at home on August 16.

Osim expressed interest in the Japanese job when he was approached by the football association, the Sports Nippon daily reported in Tokyo.

Rumor has been rife about Zico's successor since the 53-year-old veteran of three World Cups as a player vowed to quit Japan after the finals and look for a coaching job in Europe.

Among other likely successor, according to Japanese media, is former French star midfielder Didier Deschamps, who was the France captain when the country lifted the 1998 World Cup at home and won Euro 2000.

Aime Jacquet, the 1998 World Cup winning coach, and another Frenchman Bruno Metsu have also been mentioned.

Metsu, guided Senegal to their first-ever World Cup in 2002 when they beat France and eventually reached the quarter-finals.

The Japanese FA chief said the next Japan coach must follow Zico's policy of giving players the freedom to express themselves on the pitch, in contrast to his predecessor Frenchman Philippe Troussier's emphasis on tactics and rules.

However, Troussier brought Japan to the round of 16, their best ever result since their World Cup finals debut in 1998.

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