TOKYO, July 5 (Reuters) - The mystery over who will become Japan's new soccer coach deepened on Wednesday with local media flapping over whether the main candidate had got cold feet.
Several newspapers asked whether former Yugoslavia coach Ivica Osim had made a sudden U-turn about taking over from Zico following Japan's World Cup flop in Germany.
The 65-year-old had held talks with the Japan Football Association (JFA) and looked set to leave J-League club JEF United Chiba and replace Zico in the coming weeks.
But it was panic stations on Wednesday as Japanese media reported Bosnian Osim had not returned to Tokyo from Chiba's pre-season training camp on the day he said he would.
One newspaper even ran a photograph of Osim sitting on the lower branches of a tree above the caption: 'Osim pulls himself up a tree as if to escape reporters.'
Under the headline, 'Disappearing Act', the Sports Hochi asked: 'Have we all been fooled by Osim?'
Meanwhile, the Sports Nippon daily interpreted Osim's Tokyo no-show as a 'late pull-out.'
Brazilian Zico stepped down as Japan coach after the Asian champions finished bottom of their World Cup group with just one point from three games.
Playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata was so devastated after Japan's 4-1 defeat by Brazil in their final match that he announced his retirement.
Frenchman Aime Jacquet, who guided France to World Cup victory in 1998, and former Senegal coach Bruno Metsu were among those on the JFA's initial wish-list.
Osim led Yugoslavia to the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup.