- Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

TOKYO (AP) - New Japan coach Javier Aguirre says his football philosophy is simple: “Run hard, play well and win.”

Selecting a team to defend the Asian Cup title will be a more complicated proposition, and would require time and patience.

At his first news conference in Tokyo since his appointment last month, the former Mexico coach urged critics not to assume the players he assembles for Japan’s next friendly - against Uruguay on Sept. 5 - will be in the squad he takes to Australia for the continental championship in January.

Aguirre was recruited to replace Italian Alberto Zaccheroni, who was in charge during Japan’s group-stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil.

“The doors are open” to all players, he said Monday, adding that he’d be watching out for defensive skills and off-field behavior in particular.

Aguirre guided Mexico to the second round at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, and most recently was coach at Spanish club Espanyol last season.

The 55-year-old Aguirre said he was approached by other national and club teams but he chose Japan because the JFA had approached him previously - after the 2010 World Cup - and he sensed a level of sincerity.

Looking relaxed but serious in a dark suit, Aguirre told reporters his preferred nickname for his team will be “Samurai Blue.” The team had been dubbed “Zac Japan” under his predecessor.

Aguirre said he is looking for intensely competitive, team oriented players.

His first main priority is the Asian Cup defense, and then qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

In doing that, he said he’d be carefully monitoring younger players who may be chosen for the upcoming Olympics.

Japan underperformed at the World Cup - losing 2-1 to Ivory Coast, 4-1 to Colombia and being held to a 0-0 draw by 10-man Greece - and Zaccheroni didn’t seek another contract.

In five trips to the World Cup, Japan has only advanced to the knockout stage twice - in 2002, when it co-hosted the tournament with South Korea, and in 2010.

When asked about the key differences between Japan and the world’s top teams, Aguirre rattled off a short list that included Germany, Brazil, Spain and Italy. He said the only thing that distinguished those nations from the rest of the world was the major titles those teams had won. Aguirre said he’d work to build a more competitive team, and didn’t see any obstacles to achieving that goal - not even the language barrier.

“The ball is important. It is our common language,” he said.


Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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