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Sunday, 31 August 2008

Toyoda Strikes Again, Will Grampus Grab Him Back?

Montedio Yamagata's Yohei Toyoda scored his second goal since returning from Olympic duty in a 4-1 away win over Yokohama FC.

Having scored only two goals in nine appearances before the Olympics, he has now scored twice in the three games since returning to Japan. Yohei was one of the few players in the Olympic squad to make a good impression in Beijing. He scored Japan's only goal of the tournament and at least made his presence felt up front, even if his lack of finesse occasionally let him down.

With Yamagata looking likely to gain promotion to J1, it will be interesting to see if Nagoya reclaim him when his loan period expires at the end of the season. Training alongside Frode Johnsen, and under Pixie"s tutelage, Yohei could well develop to be batter player at Nagoya, even if he would likely to be used mainly as a substitute for the first year or two. (On the other hand, Keita Sugimoto after signs of improvement earlier this year seems to be reverting to type, being caught offside rather to easily, and wild finishing after creating a clear chance on goal.)

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Grampus March Back to Top of J.League Hill

Another come-from-behind victory. Another three points. Another stint at the top of the table.

Yes, Nagoya reclaimed top position with a 3-2 win over Shimizu S-Pulse to leapfrog leaders Urawa, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Tokyo Verdy. With only a dozen games remaining in the season, it looks like Grampus could well be challenging for the league title this year. This will pose an unexpectedly early test of Stojkovic's ability to handle this sort of situation. (Even legendry Grampus manager Arsène Wenger did not manage this level of success.)

However, winning the league title this year may make it more difficult to strengthen the team, as is surely necessary if the team it to challenge consistently for the title. Apart from the exceptional improvement from youngsters such as Maya Yoshida and Yoshizumi Ogawa this year, the team has also been fortunate not to lose any key players to injury. A stronger squad with adequate replacements in key positions are a priority for next year. At the moment, only the central defence really has the kind of depth needed to sustain a consistent challenge.

Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Akira Takeuchi, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Magnum, Naoshi Nakamura, Keiji Yoshimura, Yoshizumi Ogawa
Keiji Tamada, Frode Johnsen
Scorers: Tamada 23, 52, Magnum 49

Shimizu S-Pulse
Yohei Nishibe
Daisuke Ichikawa, Aoyama, Kazumichi Takagi, Arata Kodama
Marcus Paulo,

Saturday, 23 August 2008

It's Official, Pixie Walks on Water :-)

The longest losing streak away in the j League came to an end today, when Nagoya earned their first win ever at Kashima Stadium. They came from behind to earn a 2-1 win and climb above the Antlers into second place, one point behind leaders Urawa. (ESPN SoccerNet also has a report on the game.)

Kashima Antlers
Hitoshi Sogahata
Chikashi Masuda, Daiki Iwamasa, Go Iwawa, Toru Araiba
Takeshi Aoki, Mitsuo Ogasawara, Masashi Motoyama (Takuya Nozawa 67), Danilo (Marcinho 75)
Marquinhos, Shinzo Kuroki (Yuzo Tashiro 67)
Scorer: Marquinhos 4

Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Akira Takeuchi, Takashi Miki, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe
Keita Sugimoto (Kei Yamaguchi 65), Naoshi Nakamura (Milos Bajalica 80), Keiji Yoshimura, Yoshizumi Ogawa
Keiji Tamada (Yoneyama 75), Frode Johnsen
Scorers: Yoshida 11, Johnsen 60

Friday, 22 August 2008

Nadeshiko Japan Fails to Emulate Spain

Japan's women's footballers were edged out of an medal Olympic medal by typically efficient German team last night. Unlike Sorimachi's shapeless wonders in the men's team, the ladies put on a valiant display throughout the tournament. They were only bested by the US, and that only after they made the mistake of taking an early lead in their semi-final match, only after which did the Americans really start to play. Germany have their goalie to thank for the win, since her two excellent saves in the first half kept them in the game and enabled them to get the barely deserved victory.

In Euro 2008 Spain were able to claim a win against an equally undeserving German team. Despite playing the more attractive and entertaining football, Nadeshiko Japan were unable to do the same.

The Daily Gomiuri and the official Olympic site also have reports on the game.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Grampus at Home at Home's

Nagoya fought their way to 2-1 away win over Kobe at Home's Stadium yesterday evening. Although they controlled most of the game, Grampus eventually earned the three points with a Yoshizumi Ogawa winner in injury-time. So while the team is finding it hard to produce convincing performances at home, their away form is keeping them in the chase for the J1 title. This results leaves them still in third place, only two points behind leaders Kashima. (Former Grampus player Shigeyoshi Mochizuki raises some good points (in Japanese) about the game in his comments at the Chunichi Shimbum.)

As has often been the case this season, Nagoya started well, putting their opponents under pressure in midfield and using rapid passing moves to keep possession themselves. Kobe were unable to cope with this pressure during the opening 45 minutes, and fell behind after Ogawa tucked home an easy chance after some good work by Keiji Tamada on the left.

Although Grampus controlled the first half, and much of the game, the team is still struggling to convert this into a more comfortable lead. This almost proved the team's undoing as Vissel competed more effectively in the second half and even looked they might steal a winner for a few minutes after Leandro scored an equaliser with 10 minutes to go. Fortunately, the same player helped Nagoya earn the three points when his attempt to take a FK quickly backfired and gifted Grampus possession. Nagoya rapidly advanced up field and Ogawa bagged his second easy chance of the game.

Now I am sure our friends at the Rising Sun News and JSoccer will bemoan the performance of referee Murakami, who was determined to allow the game to flow. However, as we saw in Beijing, players expecting to earn fouls simply because they crash to earth every time they are tackled puts them at a disadvantage when they come up against a more experienced ref. Now, Murakami's determination to let the game flow meant that there were a few tackles for either team that one would have expected to be penalised, it made for a fast-paced entertaining game. It also favoured Grampus since they were the team that played with more rhythm and style. This left Vissel fans wailing about the bias towards the visiting team. But I would rather see referees playing the advantage than constantly stopping the game. Japanese players need to learn to stay on their feet, rather than copying the theatrical diving of some South American teams.

Vissel Kobe
Kenta Tokushige
Ryosuke Matsuoka (Norio Suzuki 55), Teruaki Kobayashi, Kunie Kitamoto, Toshihiko Uchiyama
Hideo Tanaka (Takeyuki Yoshida HT > Kenji Baba 76), Kim Nan Il, Botti, Keisuke Kurihara
Yoshito Okubo, Leandro
Scorer: Leandro 81

Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Akira Takeuchi, Takashi Miki, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa. Naoshi Nakamura, Keiji Yoshimura (Atsushi Yoneyama 85), Magnum
Keiji Tamada (Keita Sugimoto 85), Frode Johnsen (Yuki Maki 74)
Scorers: Ogawa 13, 90+

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Powder Puff Wimps Bow Out, Girls Progress to Last 8

Japan's men's team bowed out of the Olympic after losing 2-1 in their "must win" game against Nigeria. However, all is not lost for Japanese football as the women's team put in another good performance and trounced Norway 5-1 to progress to the last eight.

Although the game was tied 1-1 at half time, Japan had looked the better team in the first half and quickly took a decisive 3-1 early in the second after deflected shot from Ono and an own goal effectively sealed the team's progress to the next round. Further goals by Sawa and substitute Hara completed the victory.

Meanwhile, all that awaits the men is their meaningless game tomorrow, in which I hope they can salvage some pride. They played much better against Nigeria, but were unable to score when it matters. Now that it no longer matters, they will probably bag a hatfull. :-(

Friday, 8 August 2008

Sorimachi Japan Crash to Earth in Beijing

The over optimism evident in some quarters after the two recent warm-up games against Australia and Argentina was cruelly revealed as Japan crashed to a 1-0 defeat against the USA last night.

Japan had several opportunities, including a glaring miscue in front of an empty goal by Tokushige, but were unable to convert them. Unless manager Sorimachi, or the players themselves, show some guts and ambition, they look likely to crash out of these Olympics the way Yamamoto Japan did last time. Typically, the manger seemed to blame the players for not producing their best, rather than acknowledge his own failure to prepare them properly.

As always, the problems were up front where Morimoto was ineffective. Japan's forward line looked much more likely to create problems once Yohei Toyoda and Tadanari Lee came on in the second half. Indeed Toyoda should probably have earned a penalty after a tussle with a defender, but he threw himself down rather too theatrically to be convincing. The US also had a much more convincing claim turned down earlier in the game.

If this group fails to even progress to the knockout stage, as seems likely, it will make this the "Wasted Generation", an even bigger indictment of the manager than the inept "coaching" of Yamamoto"s "Valley Generation".

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Kiwi Gals Prove All White on the Night

Grampus Ease into Nabisco Cup Semis

In further proof of the progress under rookie manager Stojkovic this year, Nagoya confirmed their place in the Nabisco Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 home win over JEF United. This game them an aggregate 2-0 win over the two legs and sees them join S-Pulse, Gamba and Trinita in last four. With only Gamba, of the top teams, still in the tournament, the Red Whales have a great chance to pick-up some silverware later this year.

Although JEF fielded a packed defence, Grampus made the breakthrough midway through the second half when gentle giant Masukawa headed home from a corner.

Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Akira Takeuchi, Milos Bajalica (Takashi Miki 49), Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa. Naoshi Nakamura (Atsushi Yoneyama 65), Keiji Yoshimura, Magnum
Keiji Tamada, Frode Johnsen (Yuki Maki 76)
Scorer: Masukawa 60

JEF United
Masahiro Okamoto
Masataka Sakamoto, Shohei Ikeda, Daisuke Saito (Koji Nakajima), Eddy Bosnar, Ryota Aoki
Kohei Kudo, Tomi Shimomura, Tatsuya Yazawa,
Tatsunori Arai (Takuya Kokeguchi), Seiichiro Maki (Kan Matsumoto)