German legend Jurgen Klinsmann is reportedly the early frontrunner to replace outgoing Akira Nishino as Japan coach following the conclusion of their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign.
Despite a positive display at Russia 2018, it was confirmed by the Japan Football Association that Nishino will step down from his post at the end of July.
The 63-year-old was hastily handed the Samurai Blue reins back in April on a short-term deal following the abrupt departure of Vahid Halilhodzic, having previously been employed by JFA as its technical director.
The Japan Football Association (JFA) said that national team coach Akira Nishino will step down when his term ends at the end of July pic.twitter.com/WTSLPeSUTg
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) July 5, 2018
Despite having just 70 days to get ready, Nishino did an excellent job with Japan as they qualified from a group also consisting Colombia, Senegal and Poland to reach the Round of 16, where they fell 3-2 to Belgium having initially led 2-0.
While the Japanese were widely lauded for their valiant display, Nishino took the blame for the loss.
“When [Belgium’s 94th-minute winner] was conceded, I blamed myself and I questioned my tactics,” he said, according to Japan Times.
“As for the result I am very disappointed. I am devastated. Yes we took the lead but we couldn’t win.
Akira Nishino: “We have been here before (in the last 16) in Japanese football and we have earned this. We deserve this. Of course, in the past when we broke through the group stage it was the same: we played to our best strengths and our today mentality is the same.” #JPNPOL pic.twitter.com/HS6YmMpquW
— Football 24/7 (@foetball247) June 28, 2018
“The players played to the best of their ability, good football, we could show good football on the pitch, but our aim was to go to the next round.
“So – the result – I cannot really call it a success.”
While the JFA has expressed hope that Nishino will carry on in a different capacity, former Germany and United States coach Klinsmann has already emerged as a possible successor.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 4, 2018
According to USA Today, Klinsmann – who still resides in California – is the leading candidate to take over at the helm, and he has previously expressed interest in returning to international management.
The former prolific striker led Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup and also had six years in charge of United States.