Wednesday, September 13, 2006

J-League News August & September 2006

Japanese Soccer News – August & September 2006

J-League news: Gamba Osaka lead the way

Nihondaira.
Gamba Osaka look set to defend their J-League crown. A 3-1 derby win over Cerezo at the weekend saw them move two points clear of Kawasaki Frontale on the J1 league ladder.

Kawasaki secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory at neighbours Yokohama F Marinos. Brazilians Marcao and Juninho scored for Frontale, with Ryuji Kawai responding for the home team.

Urawa Reds look the team most likely to challenge Gamba and Frontale for title honours. Their 2-0 derby win over Omiya Ardija kept them within striking distance of the top two, three points behind leaders Gamba.

Fourth placed Shimizu S-Pulse are another team in form, defeating JEF United 3-1 in Chiba. S-Pulse are unbeaten since a July 23 loss to Kyoto Purple Sanga.

Cerezo Osaka in relegation dogfight

Venforet fans

At the foot of the table, things are starting to look desperate for three teams. Promoted sides Kyoto Purple Sanga and Avispa Fukuoka are involved in a desperate dogfight to retain their J1 status, along with Cerezo Osaka.

The presence of Cerezo in last place has surprised many pundits. They saw the title snatched from them thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser by FC Tokyo on the final day of last season. Cerezo have been woeful this season though, winning just three games and conceding a total of 50 goals in the process.


J2: Three-way promotion tussle

Fallen giants Tokyo Verdy look set for another season in J-League Division Two. The Yomiuri-backed club are languishing in mid-table, some 18 points behind leaders Kashiwa Reysol.

At the top Reysol are locked in a three-way battle with Vissel Kobe and Yokohama FC for one of two promotion places. Yokohama FC have risen from the ranks of the JFL to the brink of the top flight in only eight years, after its creation by fans of the defunct Yokohama Flügels.


Japan National Team

Interesting times for Japan under its new coach, Ivica Osim. The Bosnian was heralded as a proponent of attacking football, however the Blue Samurai have struggled since Osim took over in early July.


Summer 2006 Results

Three wins and a loss might seem a decent return but Osim has come under fire for some disjointed displays. His decision to not select overseas-based players also seems to have alienated him from certain sections of Japan’s demanding national media.

September 6, Sana’a

vs. Yemen

Japan followed up its loss to Saudi Arabia with a dire performance in the Yemeni capital.

After complaining of the oppressive heat in Jeddah, coach Osim this time pointed the finger at the state of the Sana’a pitch. He may soon run out of excuses, for while the pitch was certainly in terrible condition, it was no worse than Japan’s performance.

Kawasaki Frontale striker Kazuke Ganaha – a 73rd minute substitute for the invisible Naotake Hanyu, spared Osim’s blushes with a last minute goal. This will fail to gloss over a dismal display.

The knives will soon be out for Osim unless there is dramatic improvement in Japan’s final two qualifying games. The likes of Endo, Santos and Seiichiro Maki must surely be fearing for their international careers following their recent run of inept performances.

September 3, Jeddah

vs. Saudi Arabia

The first loss of the Osim-era as Japan succumbed 0-1 in the Gulf. Japan came undone when Gamba Osaka’s Yasuhito Endo carelessly lost possession in midfield, allowing Saleh Bashir to score the only goal of the game in the 73rd minute.

August 16, Niigata

vs. Yemen

Japan laboured to victory in its opening Asian Cup qualifier at a sold-out Niigata Stadium. Late goals from Yuki Abe and substitute striker Hisato Sato earned Japan the three points over a defensive Yemen side.

A lack of clinical finishing against a team which put ten men behind the ball at all times looked set to cost Japan. Their inability to break down Yemen’s packed defence was plain to see in a performance labelled as “disappointing” by new coach Osim.

August 9, Tokyo

vs. Trinidad and Tobago

A bright start for Osim’s Japan in front of almost 48,000 expectant fans. Alex Santos – so disappointing at the World Cup, struck twice to give Japan a deserved victory.

Players Overseas

Shunsuke Nakamura: Celtic

After Hidetoshi Nakata’s sudden retirement, Nakamura has taken on the mantle of Japan’s most recognisable player. He scored with a curling free-kick in an opening day victory over Kilmarnock and has started in all of Celtic’s Premier League matches so far.

Daisuke Matsui: Le Mans

Matsui has put the disappointment of missing out on Zico’s World Cup squad behind him as he continues to go from strength to strength at Le Mans. He will be hoping that new Japan coach Osim doesn’t continue his trend of not selecting overseas players.

Naohiro Takahara: Eintracht Frankfurt

After a summer move from rivals Hamburger SV, journeyman Takahara made a scoring debut in a first-round German Cup match against Siegen at the weekend.

Koji Nakata: FC Basel

Nakata has been ever-present for FC Basel, however the Swiss giants lie seventh in the Swiss Super League having won just three of seven league games so far.

Takayuki Suzuki: Red Star Belgrade

The lanky target-man might find his opportunities limited following the recent acquisition of Brazilian striker Ailton.

Transfers

Shimizu S-Pulse fans

It’s been a busy time for transfers involving Japanese players of late. The biggest move undoubtedly involved former pin-up boy Junichi Inamoto, while on the domestic front, Sota Hirayama has joined FC Tokyo after leaving Dutch club Heracles.

Junichi Inamoto: West Bromwich Albion to Galatasaray

Inamoto has swapped time on the bench at West Bromwich Albion for European football with Turkish giants Galatasaray. He started in their 0-0 Champions League draw with Bordeaux overnight.

Mitsuo Ogasawara: Kashima Antlers to Messina

Kashima Antlers midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara has joined Atsushi Yanagisawa’s old club Messina on-loan. He did not feature in their opening day win over Udinese.

Masahi Oguro: Grenoble Foot 38 to Torino

After being frozen out at Grenoble, Oguro came off the bench during Torino’s recent 1-1 draw at home to Parma.

Sota Hirayama: Heracles Almelo to FC Tokyo

Following some serious problems involving a rogue player agent, a homesick and depressed Sota Hirayama has had his contract with Heracles terminated. He recently signed a deal with FC Tokyo.


Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup

Semi-final, first legs: September 2 & 3

JEF United 2 – 2 Kawasaki Frontale

As new coach Ivica Osim was presiding over a 1-0 loss to Saudi Arabia, his son Amar was watching his JEF United team concede a late equaliser in their first-leg Nabisco League Cup semi-final clash with Kawasaki Frontale.

The match came to life late in the second half. First Kawasaki defender Hideki Sahara clashed with JEF United’s Bulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov, sparking a mass brawl that saw Sahara earn his marching orders. Then Brazilian striker Juninho lashed home his second of the night in stoppage time, to give Kawasaki a fighting chance in the return leg against the defending Nabisco Cup champions.

The game was the second between the two teams within the space of a few days, with Kawasaki having edged past JEF United 2-1 in the J-League on August 30.

Kashima Antlers 1 – 0 Yokohama F Marinos

Kashima Antlers hold the advantage in the other semi-final, having defeated Yokohama F Marinos 1-0 at home on Saturday night. The Antlers are seeking their first piece of silverware since lifting the inaugural A3 Mazda Champions Cup in 2003, and the League Cup may be their best chance as indifferent form since the resumption of the J-League has seen them slip back to fifth in the title race.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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