Japan’s national team on Wednesday continued preparations for Friday night’s friendly against Central American visitors Honduras without coach Javier Aguirre.
In a move that had been previously announced by the Japan Football Association (JFA), Aguirre flew to his native Mexico on Monday in order to receive an official government commendation, but not before meeting with his players and staff.
“This camp is vital in order to choose our Asian Cup squad,” Aguirre told reporters before departing. “I hope the team stays disciplined in my absence.”
Assistant coach Stuart Gelling will lead the team’s training as they prepare to face Honduras, who like Japan exited the 2014 World Cup without a victory.
Aguirre will return to Japan on Thursday night, a day ahead of the match at Toyota Stadium in Aichi, which will be followed by a showdown with Asian rivals Australia at Osaka’s Yanmar Stadium.
“It’s only two or three days,” commented Milan star Keisuke Honda, who has served as Japan’s captain in the absence of Makoto Hasebe, “but whether or not the coach is here doesn’t change the fact that these are two important matches.”
While the JFA’s English-language website incorrectly lists Aguirre’s return as being on Monday, November 17, the Japanese release and subsequent domestic media reports correctly report him returning on the 13th.
Aguirre’s premeditated decision to leave his team mid-training has been criticised by local media, adding to the pressure he has found himself under following a 1-0-3 start with Japan.
The former Mexico coach is reportedly in the JFA’s crosshairs, with hearings in the works should the Samurai Blue fail to win against Honduras or Australia.
The two matches are Japan’s final scheduled friendlies before January, when they will travel to Australia in order to defend their Asian Cup title.