Aguierre under pressure after Japan exit

Jan 24, 2015 - 2:36 AM Under-fire Japan coach Javier Aguirre faces more uncertainty about his future following the Samurai Blue's shock Asian Cup quarter-final exit.

The holders and four-time winners crashed out to the UAE on Friday in a dramatic penalty shootout at ANZ Stadium with the score locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes of action.

Aguirre was recently implicated in a match-fixing scandal from his time coaching in Spain and banking on a strong showing in Australia to ease the pressure he's under in Japan.

The Mexican was among 41 people named by Spain's anti-corruption prosecutor in court last month following a probe into Real Zaragoza's 2-1 win at Levante on the final day of the 2010-11 campaign.

The victory ensured Zaragoza, coached by Aguirre at the time, avoided relegation.

Aguirre, who also coached Osasuna, Atletico Madrid and Espanyol during a 12-year career in Spain, insists he's done nothing wrong.

However, officials from the Japanese FA were concerned enough to send a delegation to Spain to conduct their own investigation into the case.

The 55-year-old has been in charge of Japan for just six months after replacing Alberto Zaccharoni who quit after a hugely disappointing World Cup campaign in Brazil.

Aguirre was tight-lipped on his future on Friday after seeing his star-studded team, whose starting line-up contained 10 players who play in Europe's top leagues, exit the Asian Cup.

In contrast, none of the UAE side play outside of their homeland, but under their impressive coach Mahdi Ali, they were organised and defensively solid as they withstood an avalanche of Japanese pressure

"I am very proud of my team's performance. We gave everything we had over 120 minutes. When the game goes to penalties, it is a 50 per cent chance of winning," Aguirre said.

"We were the better team in all aspects of the game including attack."

Shinji Kagawa, signed by Manchester United for $22 million in 2012, before returning to German giants Borussia Dortmund two years later for half that fee, missed the crucial sixth penalty in the shootout when his effort came back off the post.

Midfield superstar Keisuke Honda, who plays for AC Milan, was the other player to miss, blazing his side's opening penalty high over the crossbar.

But Aguirre refused to criticise Honda, who has enjoyed a stellar tournament for his miss.

"He's played very well throughout and is a very good player," he said.

"He is a great leader and he will bounce back from this."

Source: AAP

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