Japan men's handball team manager Dagur Sigurdsson has asked to step down from his role as he intends to take charge of another country, the Japan Handball Association said Friday, with Croatian media reporting that the European nation is in negotiations to sign the coach.

Japan men's handball team manager Dagur Sigurdsson gives instructions during a friendly match against Paris Saint-Germain at Tokyo's Ariake Arena on Aug. 2, 2023. (Kyodo)

The 50-year-old Icelander has been in the Japan job since February 2017 and was on contract through the Paris Olympics. He conveyed his will to leave last Saturday and the search for his successor is under way, according to the JHA.

In October, Sigurdsson guided Japan to its first Olympics as a non-host nation since 1988 after his team topped the Asian qualifiers for the Paris Games.

"The news arrived at a time when we were thinking of making great strides this year," senior JHA official Shigeki Shimizu said. "We never imagined this would happen."

Sigurdsson steered Germany to the 2016 Olympics men's bronze medal before taking the reins in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Croatia is scheduled to play in one of March's three qualifying tournaments against Algeria, Austria and host Germany.