Hajime Moriyasu named new Japan head coach

The Japan Football Association (JFA) on Thursday confirmed the appointment of Hajime Moriyasu as the next head coach of the country’s men’s national team.

The 49-year-old, who last year was handed the reins of Japan’s Olympic side, will become the first coach since Philippe Troussier (Sydney 2000, Japan-South Korea 2002) to hold both positions simultaneously.

After a long playing career spent mostly with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and corporate predecessors Mazda FC, Moriyasu turned to coaching following his 2003 retirement. The former Japan international rose to prominence in 2012 when he won the J1 League in his managerial debut with Sanfrecce. He went on to capture two more championships in 2013 and 2015, but stepped down during the 2017 season as the team found themselves threatened by relegation.

Considered at one point to be a candidate to replace former head coach Vahid Halilhodzic following his shock dismissal in April, Moriyasu instead served as a coach under Akira Nishino as the Samurai Blue marched to a dramatic Round of 16 finish in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“As Japanese football has progressed, we have developed talented individuals who have achieved great results as a player and proven themselves as coaches,” JFA technical committee chairman Takashi Sekizuka said. “Amongst them, I believe that Mr. Moriyasu is absolutely the most well-suited to lead the Samurai Blue.”

The biggest task facing the new head coach will be rebuilding an aging squad following the retirement of veterans such as Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda. Japan’s 2018 squad was the first to not give any playing time to a player from the previous Olympic generation (Rio 2016), a statistic which emphasizes the importance of the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“We have to plan a generational transition and the merging of existing generations,” Moriyasu told hundreds of assembled media on Thursday evening in downtown Tokyo. “I won’t be shutting out veterans, or only putting on young players to give them experience. The national team needs to be an environment where veterans can share their experience with newer players.”

As head of two national team sides, Moriyasu will face an unusually busy schedule in the coming two years. His Under-21 side will participate in next month’s Asian Games, while the Samurai Blue will host six friendlies during FIFA international dates in September, October, and November. In January will come the AFC Asian Cup 2019, while Japan are also set to participate as guests in June’s 2019 Copa America.

“I only have one body and I can’t be in two places at the same time. But with the backing of the JFA and everyone who supports the national team, I believe that by managing both teams I can earn greater results,” Moriyasu said.