Thursday, March 1, 2007

Japanese Soccer News 2007 Season Kicks Off

Japanese Soccer News 2007 Season Kicks Off.
J-League News: Winter is over, as the 2007 J-League kicks off

After a three month hiatus, the J-League returns on March 3 with a number of fascinating encounters.

FC Tokyo take on Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Ajinomoto Stadium, with all eyes on Costa Rican World Cup star Paulo Wanchope, who could make his competitive debut for Tokyo. Hiroshima will be looking to continue their good form from the back end of last season, in what should be an intriguing tussle.

Defending champions Urawa Reds start their season at home to J2 champions Yokohama FC, who are making their debut in the top flight. Urawa were hammered 4-0 by Gamba Osaka in the season-opening Xerox Super Cup a week ago, and will hope to put that match behind them with a victory in this one.

Gamba Osaka, meanwhile, take on Urawa's cross-town rivals Omiya Ardija. Their Brazilian striker Magno Alves will be full of confidence, having hit a hat-trick against Urawa in the Super Cup. That means that Gamba's new signing, ex-Venforet Kofu striker Bare, will likely start on the bench.

On March 4, Kashiwa Reysol kick-start their return to J1 with a clash against a dangerous looking Jubilo Iwata, but a more interesting match-up could be that of Nagoya Grampus Eight against JEF United.

Both clubs have had high expectations in recent years, but after a disappointing 2006, both might need to reset their sights for this season. Nagoya have not made any major additions to their squad while JEF United have lost talismanic midfielder Yuki Abe to rivals Urawa, although they have brought in highly rated Serbian defender Nenad Dordevic.

Nagoya and JEF United might reasonably be expected to scrap it out in mid-table this season, however this match could give an insight into each club's respective chances in 2007. Nagoya arguably have the edge, with confidence at JEF United seemingly in short supply. That could all change with a good result in this match, however - stay tuned for the outcome.

Japanese Players Abroad

Naohiro Takahara : Eintracht Frankfurt

Takahara scored twice in Eintracht's 3-0 German Cup win over bitter local rivals Kickers Offenbach, on February 27. Takahara received a "1" from Germany's prestigious Kicker Magazin - the highest player rating offered, and has now scored eight league goals, four goals in the German Cup and another two goals in the UEFA Cup, to take his tally to 14 goals scored in 28 appearances this season.

Shunsuke Nakamura : Celtic

Nakamura could be in danger of missing Celtic's crucial UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg clash with AC Milan, after he broke a bone in his hand in Celtic's recent 2-1 Scottish Cup win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Nakamura has been in outstanding form this season, and scored with a trademark free-kick in Celtic's 2-1 win at Aberdeen on February 17.

Takayuki Morimoto : Catania

Morimoto stunned Serie A with a sensational cameo performance on debut for the club. The eighteen year old was already the youngest player to ever play and score in the J-League, and he became the youngest Japanese goalscorer overseas, when he came off the bench and fired home a late equaliser at Atalanta's Stadio Azzuri D'Italia on January 28. Morimoto has well and truly forced himself into the Catania squad, and has featured intermittently off the bench in recent weeks.

Alessandro Santos : Salzburg

Japan international Alessandro Santos made his competitive debut for new club Salzburg, starting in their 2-1 victory over Grazer AK, on February 24. "Alex," as he is more commonly known, set up the equaliser with an accurate free-kick that was nodded home by Swiss defender Remo Meyer.

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto : Salzburg

Former Gamba Osaka defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto also made his debut for new club Salzburg in the win over Grazer AK, albeit from the bench. He replaced Vratislav Lokvenc in the 88th minute, and is not expected to start the top-of-the-table clash against second-placed FC Pasching on March 3.

Japanese National Teams

Japan - Olympic Team

Japan's under-22 national team laboured to an unconvincing 3-0 win over Hong Kong, in their Olympic Games qualifier in Tokyo on February 28. Goals from FC Tokyo's Sota Hirayama and Yohei Kajiyama, and a late third from substitute Chikashi Masuda of Kashima Antlers, secured a flattering win for the Japanese, who struggled against their scrappy opponents. Japan's next qualifier is away in Malaysia on March 14.

Japan National Team

Japan's full international squad took part in a four day training camp in Chiba recently, ahead of their friendly against Peru at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, on March 24.

Included in the call-up's for the training squad, was Yokohama F. Marinos defender Yuki Nakazawa, who has not played for the national team since the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Called up for the first time were goalkeepers Eiji Kawashima and Akihiro Hayashi - the latter a student at Ryutsu Keizai University, as well as Hideo Hashimoto, Takahito Soma, Jungo Fujimoto and Kisho Yano.

Coach Ivica Osim is expected to recall some of Japan's European based players for the first time in his tenure, for the clash against Peru.

Japan Women's National Team

The Japan Women's National Team face a playoff against Mexico, for a place in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in China.

Japan face Mexico at the National Stadium in Tokyo on March 10, before travelling to Mexico for the second leg against the third-placed CONCACAF team, on March 17.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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