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Who will succeed Zico??


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Article which I found interesting (and I didn't even write it) about the current state of the J-League, some surprising stories about Zico not talking with J-League managers, the next Japan coach, and, the part that I found most interesting, manager Buchwald's assertion that the J-League is one of top six or seven in the world...

Urawa Reds manager Guido Buchwald all but excluded himself Monday from the list of possible candidates to replace Zico as head coach of the Japan national team.

Speculation about who will succeed Zico, who intends to step down after the World Cup, has been growing since JFA president Saburo Kawabuchi told reporters earlier this month that a new coach will be unveiled in July.

"Of course, it's flattering to have your name mentioned with such a role, but no one has approached me to discuss taking over the national team," the 44-year-old Buchwald told reporters in Tokyo. "I am under contract with the Reds and that is my only focus right now ... Besides, I think I am too young for the position. I want to be on the pitch with the players every day and be more hands on, something you can't really do as a national team manager."

Other names linked with the job are Gamba Osaka's Akira Nishino, the Yokohama F Marinos' Takeshi Okada and JEF United Chiba's Ivica Osim. Buchwald's vote goes to Osim.

"Osim is the perfect person for the job," Buchwald said of the former Yugoslavian national team coach. "He's 65, he knows so much about the game, and after many years in Japan he also knows the Japanese players inside and out."

A friendly against still undecided opposition at Tokyo's National Stadium on Aug. 9 is slated to be the new manager's first game in charge of the national team.

In a surprising revelation, Buchwald said he has had little contact with Zico over the years, despite being the club manager of several national team players, including Shinji Ono, Alessandro Santos and Keisuke Tsuboi.

"We haven't spoken for what? Maybe two years," Buchwald said. "I tried to call him but was told he was too busy to talk."

Buchwald said he was surprised at the lack of correspondence, especially considering that Ono had been struggling to return to full fitness after a spate of injuries, and questioned the logic behind Zico not showing up for a meeting of J.League managers at the start of the season.

"It was a great opportunity to learn about all the players from the people who know them the best," Buchwald said.

As an official World Cup ambassador for Stuttgart, Germany, Buchwald will have his hands full this summer, even after the Reds play their final Nabisco Cup game Saturday before the World Cup break.

Buchwald plans to fly the entire team to Germany for a training camp in the Black Forest west of Stuttgart, where the World Cup-winning defender played most of his career.

Buchwald said Japan has a decent shot at advancing to the second round if they can get three points against Australia in the first match.

"They can beat Croatia and can play well against Brazil," Buchwald said. "But the first match against Australia will be the most important."

Germany, on the other hand, will have a difficult time repeating its 2002 World Cup heroics, according to Buchwald.

"I think the tournament is perhaps two years too early for Germany," Buchwald said. "The players are still a little too young and inexperienced, particularly in the defense."

He added that reaching the finals of the 2002 World Cup was one of the worst things to happen to Germany because it gave people the false impression that everything was all right with the team.

"Big changes needed to be made but weren't because of that success," Buchwald said. "And then we went to the European Championships in 2004 and were bounced from the first round. Had (coach Juergen) Klinsmann been brought in earlier and been able to overhaul the team after the last World Cup, we would be in a better position now."

On another note, Buchwald, who played for the Urawa Reds from 1994-97, has only good things to say about the current state of the J.League.

In fact, he thinks the league is one of the best in the world.

"I think the J.League compares favorably to some of the best leagues in Europe," Buchwald said. "It is maybe sixth or seventh best behind England, Italy, Spain and Germany.

"The J.League is, in my opinion, better than the Dutch Eredivisie. Here, every team is tough and there is much stronger parity. In Holland, you have only three teams ... that truly compete, and the other weeks are just like practice matches for them. In the J.League, you can't let up at all or you will lose."(IHT/Asahi: May 31,2006)

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Haven't spoken in 2 years? Nice. Wonder if this is just Buchwald or more wide spread. Right or wrong I have a hard time imagining this sort of thing going on for very long in Japan before a quiet mutiny/rebellion would take foot.

Couldn't say about that last statement by Buchwald regarding league parity and quality compared to the European leagues. Could be right. Don't know.

Absolutely agree with this though.

"They can beat Croatia and can play well against Brazil," Buchwald said. "But the first match against Australia will be the most important."

Group F is going to be a very interesting watch me-thinks.

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