Aguirre: The team comes first
© AFP

New Japan coach Javier Aguirre has promised to take a hardline approach with his players following their World Cup flop, warning the Blue Samurai he will not tolerate prima donnas. The 55-year-old, who steered his native Mexico to the last 16 of the 2002 and 2010 FIFA World Cups™, told a news conference in Tokyo that reputations would count for nothing on his watch.

"I will demand discipline because that's very important," said Aguirre. "What I want is players with passion, players who put the team first - not individual skill. The door is open to all players, whether from the J.League or based in Europe. But players will need to be aware of their duties both defensively and going forward. The team collective must come first."

Aguirre declared that the players would come under close scrutiny after their meek first-round exit from the World Cup in Brazil. "They all have a chance," said the former Espanyol manager, who replaces Italian Alberto Zaccheroni as coach of the Asian champions. "But it will also depend how they behave off the pitch. Commitment is the key. I want players to step up and take responsibility, and wear the Japan shirt with pride."

Aguirre will need a crash course on potential candidates with home friendlies with Uruguay on 5 September and Venezuela on 9 September scheduled. "It is a big project to lead Japan to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a very important challenge in my career," he added. "I want to build a team which can compete against anyone."

The Japanese crashed out of the World Cup after a 2-1 defeat by Ivory Coast, a goalless draw with Greece and a 4-1 thrashing by Colombia, prompting criticism of Zaccheroni and big-name players such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.

"Japan's style of play has similarities to Mexico's," said Aguirre. "They look to retain possession and have a good balance between defence and attack. Defensively we need to tighten up and the team needs to be more competitive for sure."

Aguirre's first task will be to retain the Asian Cup in Australia in January. "What attracted me to the job was the seriousness shown by the Japanese Football Association," he said. "The objective is to qualify for the World Cup in four years and the Asian Cup is an important step. I look forward to the challenge."

Japan have twice reached the last 16 of the World Cup - in 2002 as tournament co-hosts under Frenchman Philippe Troussier and in 2010 in Takeshi Okada's second spell in charge.