- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ITU, Brazil (AP) - Alberto Zaccheroni quit as Japan coach in the wake of the Asian champion’s disappointing group-stage exit at the World Cup, saying the team needed a fresh influence.

Zaccheroni, who was appointed in 2010 on a four-year contract, announced the decision on Wednesday after earlier saying he’d wait until he returned to Japan to consider his future with the team.

Japan placed last in Group C with one point - from a 0-0 draw with 10-man Greece. The Japanese lost 2-1 after leading against the Ivory Coast in the group opener and then was routed 4-1 in its last game against Colombia on Tuesday.

Zaccheroni said he thought Japan was “superior in everything” against Colombia, but was still soundly beaten.

“This means there’s something missing,” he said. “Therefore, this morning I have told the federation and the players that the moment has come for me to step away from the Japanese national team.

“I think it’s fair if someone new comes, a new person, a new coach, to find for the team whatever it is missing.”

Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima said Zaccheroni made an important contribution to Japan’s football development, even if the exit in Brazil was at an earlier stage than it was in 2010 in South Africa. Japan beat Cameroon and Denmark in the group stage in 2010 before losing in the second round on penalties to Paraguay.

‘We, all players, are very disappointed that we couldn’t show ourselves the way he wanted us to play,” Kawashima said. “He contributed so much these four years. It’s a pity that we couldn’t get good results in the end. But these four years have been a big step for us with him.”

Zaccheroni said he’d been aiming to get Japan into the second round, “But I picked the team, decided on the tactics and how we play and I want to take full responsibility.”

“I told the players and staff that I was happy and proud to be their coach. Over the last four years I have put my heart and soul into helping this team grow.”

Zaccheroni said the Japanese players had the speed and skill to compete at the highest international level, but needed to be more physical.

“I have tried to create a team with speed and intensity and don’t think the direction I tried to take the team was the wrong one,” he was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency. “I think the team should continue on the same path it has been on for the last four years.”

Japan won the Asian Cup for a fourth time in 2011 and will travel to Australia as defending continental champion for the 2015 tournament.

Star midfielder Keisuke Honda said it was important for Japan to start looking forward quickly.

“I was disappointed yesterday, but this is real,” he said. “I have to accept these results. Of course if we had played better we would have different results, but it’s too late, and we have to think from now.

“Hopefully I want to try next World Cup”.

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