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Saturday, 28 June 2008

J1 Resumes Action Today

The J.League resumes J1 games later today, after a one-month hiatus for Japan's World Cup qualifiers. With Gamba Osaka and the Kashima Antlers winning their games in hand on Wednesday, the chase for the J1 title is nicely poised with both these teams now only four points off the pace.

Second placed Nagoya have an instant test of their credentials, taking on Kashima at Mizuho Stadium. Now that we are 13 games into the season, opponents cannot make excuses about being surprised by Grampus' style of play. On the other hand, the breaks has given manager Stojkovic time to develop that style a bit more. It will be interesting to see how good a game the team can give Kashima this evening.

So far this season, three main factors have contributed to the team's best start to a season. The first, of course, is Pixie's ability to get the team playing a clear style sooner than we had a right to expect. The second factor is the great progress of young stars Maya Yoshida and Yoshizumi Ogawa. Both look class players who should ensure the team continues to enjoy success for the next several years. Finally, the midfield players, especially Naoshi Nakamura and Keiji Yoshimura have been working their socks off and pinging the ball across the pitch more quickly than the somewhat ponderous build-up we saw last year. While the summer heat is likely to reduce their ability to pressurize the opposition quite as effectively, the success of the strategy should help the team apply it more evenly. Bring on the Antlers and let's see how much progress we have made.

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