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Japan line up Del Bosque

TOKYO, July 1 – With Takeshi Okada likely to step down after Japan's Last 16 World Cup defeat on penalties to Paraguay, Spain's Vicente Del Bosque is among potential candidates to replace him, a report said on Thursday.Japan’s Sports Nippon tabloid revealed that Hiromi Hara, a senior Japan Football Association official, had said the former Real Madrid coach Del Bosque was on a wish-list of candidates to manage the national side when Okada departs.

"(Del Bosque) demonstrated a stable leadership with Real Madrid," Hara said, quoted by the Sports Nippon. "The issue is his age and whether he will really accept the offer."

Hara made an informal offer to the 59-year-old del Bosque when the pair met last August, the paper said.

Del Bosque is under contract with Spain until 2012 and has been in the job for two years following the departure of controversial Euro 2008 winning coach Luis Aragones.

Sports Nippon also said the association has named Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa as another top candidate, after he received praise for the manner in which the Chileans played during the finals before going out 3-0 to Brazil in the Last 16.

"He has a variety of experience, coaching not only in Argentina but also in Chile and other countries," Hara said of the 54-year-old Argentine, who failed to guide Argentina out of the first round in 2002 but coached them to the 2004 Olympic title, the report said. "He is one of my favourites."

Japan advanced to the second stage of the World Cup for the first time on foreign soil under Okada this month. The team’s only other final 16 appearance came in 2002 when they co-hosted the tournament with South Korea.

Okada will probably bow out of football after the Japanese were beaten 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out by Paraguay following their 0-0 draw.

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A Zen student known to mix team talks with lectures on religion, philosophy and history, Okada repeatedly said he would quit football after the finals, despite being touted as a candidate to run the Japanese football association.

He told a British football magazine that he would retire to become a "farmer" who reads books when it rains and toils on the land when the sun shines, a lifestyle idealised by many of Japan’s intellectual elite.

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