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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Abe Called Up to Japan Squad

Nagoya defender Shohei Abe has been added to the Japan squad for the upcoming Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen. Abe has been one of the outstanding players this year for Grampus, and has his much improved defending has been vital to the team's success.

However, his well deserved addition to the Japan highlights the need for Nagoya to strengthen the squad, especially for the two wing backs. Abe has been ever present this year, with no chance to recuperate from any knocks and sprains. This has mainly been due to the lack of a reliable replacement and the team has bee lucky that Abe has proven tough enough to play so consistently. With ACL commitments and Japan national team games likely to place even greater demands on the squad, competent replacements are vital if the team is to sustain the progress made this year.

Grampus Knocked Out by Classy Gamba

Dragan "Pixie" Stojkovic's debut season as a manager cam to an end with Gamba's 2-1 win in the Emperor's Cup 1/4-final at Kobe on Christmas Day. In the end, Gamba's sharpness after their three games in Club World Cup proved a bigger advantage than the well rested, after a couple of week of inactivity, Grampus team.

As with the two league games against Osaka, Nagoya kept the score line close. However, unlike the two league game which were close because the teams were evenly matched, this game saw Gamba have much the better of the game for most of the 90 minutes. Nagoya did not press and close down as effectively as they have throughout much of this season. The extra space an time allowed Gamba to create plenty of chances, especially in the first half. Nagoya were somewhat fortunate to go in at half time only trailing by two goals, scored by Lucas and Nakazawa.

The second half was a bit more even, but Gamba still looked the more likely to score. However, the introduction of Keita Sugimoto at half time changed the balance of the game. His speed unsettled the Gamba defense and he latched onto a long ball through the middle and calmly stoked the ball past Fujigaya to reduce the deficit to one goal. This sparked a revival in nagoya fortunes and Johnsen and Magnun were both unlucky to see good efforts in goal thwarted by excellent saves. Grampus could easily have taken the game into extra time had it not been for Fujigaya fine performance, but doing so would have been a bit of an injustice. A score of 4-2 or 5-3 would have been a more accurate reflection of the chances.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Gamba Clinch 3rd Place in World

Local heroes Gamba eased to a 1-0 win in the third-pkace play off against Pachuca for this year's Club World Club. Man United also looked comfortable against Liga de Quito in the final, as they were duly crowned the best team in the world.

The players then had had to endure some painful interviews on Japanese TV as Gomiuri TV had chosen an interpreter with an American accent who new sweet FA about football. Ronaldo was quickly rescued by a United minder, but poor old Rooney was left to struggle on against the tide of ignorant comments.

Sporting Life "Pachuca 0 Gamba Osaka 1"
BBC News "Liga de Quito 0-1 Man Utd"

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Grampus Clearing House for New Acquisitions?

To date Nagoya Grampus have announced the signing (or promotion from the youth team) of seven players. At the same time, the club has released 10 players and two coaches.

Apart from Davi, from relegated Sapporo, none of the signing can be called major acquisitions. The discrepancy between the number released and those arriving suggests that there will be another two or three players heading to Nagoya in the near future, probably after the Emperor's Cup finishes on January 1st. (Since the U-18s have already crashed out of the ongoing J-Youth Cup, we will probably not see any additional promotions this year.)

New Arrivals
FW DAVI from Consadole Sapporo
FW KUBA Hikaru from RKU High School
FW HASHIMOTO Koji from Meiji University
DF MATSUO Genta from Osaka University of Health and Sport
MF TAGUCHI Taishi from RKU High School
MF HIRAKI Yoshiki from Ryutsu Keizai University
MF ISOMURA Ryota from Nagoya Grampus U-18s

Outgoing/Released
MF FUJITA Toshiya
MF/DF OMORI Masayuki
DF MIKI Takashi
MF INOUE Wataru
FW Frode JOHNSEN
MF YONEYAMA Atsushi
DF WATANABE Keiji
MF SUDO Yusuke
DF KATAYAMA Shosuke
ASHIKAWA Masahiko GK Coach
KAMBE Sugao Coach

Honda Inspires Another Venlo Victory

Keisuke Honda scores with a diving header to earn VVV Venlo victory against Excelsior in the Dutch Jupiler League.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Gamba Lose Out in 8-Goal Thriller

An entertaining, and as Sir Bobby Charlton said "friendly", game In Yokohama, Manchester United cam out the 5-3 winners. Although Gamba gave United a good game, forcing them to play crisp, sharp passes, their opponents superior quality and power proved too much them to really threaten an upset. However, they still managed to put three goals past Edwin Van der Sar.

Peter Pakeman's view:
What a terrific performance going forward by Gamba! They were almost the equals of United in everything except for power and Christiano Ronaldo. Swap Rooney and Lucas and this might have been an even more interesting game!!:-)

Not only did Gamba score three, Van der Sar had to make another three excellent saves. This year Gamba were 8th in J1. Did they do any worse than the 8th team in the Premiership usually does against MU? OK, on the pattern of the goals MU didn't have to go through all the gears, but an exciting performance nonetheless by Gamba.

I think Gamba did the J-League proud tonight. It confirms the impression that we watch damn good football in J1. The only thing is the level of physical presence and power is a class below that of the top-league European teams. Where is the Japanese Rooney?

A hugely entertaining evening!

Other Views & Related Articles:
Daily Gomiuri "Man Utd too strong for Gamba"
SkySports "United secure final date"
CNN World Sport "Gamba Osaka - Kings of Asia"

Monday, 15 December 2008

Adelaide Salvage Pride in Third Loss to Gamba

Australia's Adelaide United finally put in a performance that showed how they could justify being runners-up in this year's ACL final. At the third attempt, they managed to give Gamba Osaka a decent game. Despite being outclassed for much of the game, the Aussies managed to create several chances, and can count themselves unlucky not to have taken the game into extra time. Of course, Gamba should have wrapped the game up in the first half, but some wasteful finishing (by both teams) meant that the game ended in a narrow 1-0 win for the Japanese team.

Gamba will need to raise their game considerably, if they are to match Urawa's feat of finishing third last year, let alone overcoming Champions League winners Man United. The game between Pachuca and Al Ahly saw both teams playing much better than either of the antipodes teams.

However, the victory came at a heavy price for Gamba. Both Sasaki and Futagawa went off with injuries, that look likely to keep them out for (at
least) the next game. Neither injury was caused by clashing with a burly Aussie, but after when a shot (Sasaki) and a cross (Futagawa). It looks as though both may have been carrying injuries and managed to aggravate them. We should know more tomorrow. Both are having scans today (Dec 15).

Friday, 12 December 2008

Aussies Squeak Past Kiwi Part-timers

Adelaide United made hard work of downing part-timers Waitakere United in the opening game of the opening game of the FIFA Club World Cup last night. Despite looking the better team for most of the game, they had to come from 0-1 down to earn a semi-final berth against ACL champions Gamba Osaka.

The antipodean derby lived up to expectations as the Kiwi's battled to stay in the game in the opening half. Determination and courage saw them deny their more technical Aussie opponents with some desperate, but effective defending, After a bright start, Adelaide found themselves a goal behind shortly after the half-hour when Paul Seaman latched onto a loose ball, after another poor showing by Adelaide keeper Galekovic, to fire home the fumbled ball. However, Adelaide were soon back on level terms when Mullen was given the freedom of Tokyo to head home from a corner five minutes later.

The second half saw the New Zealanders make a better job of competing, and they managed to hold their own much better than the desperate rearguard action of the first. However, their opponents extra experience and skill eventually told and a Travis Todd goal near the end ensured that the Aussies would get a chance to avenge their ACL final loss at he hands of Gamba.

Other views of the game:
NZ Herald "Honour in defeat for Waitakere"
ABC "Adelaide leaves it late against NZ part-timers"

Monday, 8 December 2008

Grampus Secure ACL Place in Final Game

Nagoya Grampus earned the point they needed at Oita to ensure their participation in next year's Asian Champions League. However, Kawasaki Frontale's win, against former crosstown rivals Verdy, meant that they took second place in the final standings, with Grampus finishing third.

Although it is disappointing that having come so close, Grampus were unable to claim the J1 title, a top three finish is an excellent start to the "Pixie" era. The fact that the team fell slightly short, and will have the tough ACL schedule next year, should make it easier for the manager to strengthen the team without ruffling too many feathers. Although the players starting regularly have shown they can compete for titles, the lack of depth in the squad has been exposed when key players have been suspended or injured. Once the Emperor's Cup is out of the way, expect to see the team making two or three big signings to give the team enough depth to allow Stojkovic to rotate players in each area of the field and remain competitive.

Other views of the closing round of games:
Asahi-IHI, Daily Yomiuri, and the Japan Times

Monday, 1 December 2008

Grampus Keep Title Hope Alive for Last Game

Nagoya almost let a game they were dominating slip away with a nervy second half performance again, but eventually ran out 3-1 winners. Of course, the idiots at the IHI Asahi sent a reporter off to Sapporo, to report on a game played in Nagoya. (I hope their hotel had a good TV.) Meanwhile, the Japan Times was right on the ball and sent their reporter to Nagoya.

As was the case last week in Kyoto, Grampus got off to a good start, scoring after six and 12 minutes. The first was precision free-kick by Yoshizumi Ogawa that clipped the far post as it thundered into the back of the net. The second saw Keita Sugimoto pounce to poke home after Consadole 'keeper Sato fumbled in front of goal. Magnum should have made the game safe later half casually slipping the ball past Sato, but also wide of the post. Indeed Magnum should probably have scored a hat-trick, missing a couple of excellent opportunities in the second half as well.

Unfortunately, that vital third goal continued to prove elusive in the second half. The lively Davi, who had already wasted one excellent chance in the first half, mad amends for his earlier miss as Takahiro Masukawa made an embarrassing error to gift the Brazilian an easy chance. Gentle Giant "Masu" went sprawling as he clumsily tripped over himself on the edge of the penalty area, allowing Davi to skip past Nishimura and slide the ball into the empty net. At 1-2, Grampus could easily have repeated last week's dismal lapses. Despite their best efforts Sapporo did not have quite have the quality to make their brief spell of control count, and Nagoya soon reasserted control, but were no longer looking as assured of victory. However, Atsushi Yoneyama scored a third goal to make the score-line look more respectable. His swerving free-kick a minute or so into injury time found Sato wanting again and allowed the departing Yoneyama to enjoy a hero's send off from the home crowd.