Monday, 30 November 2009

Grampus Cut Yamaguche, Hirono and Niikawa

Nagoya have announced that they will not be renewing the contracts of three players. Midfield dynamo Kei Yamaguchi, goalie Koichi Hirono and young striker Oribe Niikawa.

Yamaguchi is a bit of a surprise, since he has been a regular and dependable squad player for the last two or three years. However, he has failed to develop into a key player, and should have no problem finding a new club. Young Oribe has failed to demonstrate a consistent goal-scoring touch, even for the satellite team, and is another player (like Yohei Toyoda) who may find J2 a happier hunting ground.

As predicted, here when Toru Hasegawa broke into the first team, Hirono is simply a victim of Hasegawa's progress this season. The young (still only 20-years old) keeper may not be quite ready for the first team, but has improved sufficiently to be considered a reasonable third choice keeper. Koichi will be much better off at a club where he may may get more playing time.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Managers Ring Changes at Toyota

Both managers were forced to make early substitutions, as both Montedio's Miyazawa and our Aussie forward, Kennedy, made way for early replacements. An early goal by Ogawa and an insurance goal by Magnum sees us win comfortably in our final home game of the season.

This was a more convincing performance from the home team, playing with fully-fit squad for the first time in several months. However, it was not to last long. A smack in the eye from a clearance saw Josh Kennedy retire after 30 minutes. The blow left the lanky forward feeling a bit groggy and suffering from blurred vision for a while, but is unlikely to hinder his appearance in the team's final game of the season, apart from sporting a beauty of a shiner. :-)

The match started with Nagoya fielding a nominal 4-4-2 lineup, but actually saw the Tamada and Igor spending most of the game up front to form a 4-3-3 formation. This was partly due to Montedio's failure to pressurize the home team, which allowed them to control the pattern of play. As such, the team's inability to turn this control of the game into more goals is a testament to its need to sign some creative players during the off-season.

Ogawa, who has struggled to find his form of last year, gave Grampus the perfect start as he produced a neat finish from Kennedy's flick-on after 11 minutes. Kennedy, before his departure, Burzanovic and Tamada all had opportunities to extend the lead before half time, but failed to seriously test Kenta Shimizu in the Yamagata goal. The visitors' one shot of the half, came from an Ishikawa free kick that had Narasaki scrambling but failed to find the target.

The second half saw Nagoya continue to dominate possession, but without its big target man up front, the team could not create many clear chances. This allowed Montedio to regain some confidence and make a more determined effort to get back in the game, with both team's having an equal share of the attempts on goal. However, while Yamagata's efforts were all inaccurate, Magnum capitalised on a neat angled pass from the quick-thinking Tamada to make the game safe midway though the half.

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Naoshi Nakamura (Magnum 64), Keiji Yoshimura, Igor Burzanovic (Alex Santos 77)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy (Yuki Maki 31)
Scorers: Ogawa 11, Magnum 76

Montedio Yamagata
Kenta Shimizu
Takuya Miyamoto, Shogo Nishikawa, Hidenori Ishii, Tatsuya Ishikawa
Kohei Miyazaki (Tomayasu Hirose 77), Takumi Watanabe (Tetsuro Ohta 65), Kentaro Sato, Katsuyuki MIyazawa (Tomotaka Kitamura 14)
Yu Hasegawa, Tatuya Furuhashi

Dates for Yer Calendar!

Mark, over at Inter-Lingual.Net, has created a Google Calendar listing football matches and related events in the Kansai region. See the Footy Schedule calendar for details.

J Youth Sunstar Tonic Cup
This is an annual trophy for the U-18 teams of J.League clubs. This year, as has been the case for the last few years, the a couple of the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and final will be held at Nagai Stadium (or the nearby Nagai 2 for the quarter-finals). Admission is free, and is a good opportunity to catch an early glimpse of some future J.League stars.

Sun, Dec 20 J Youth quarter-finals (Nagai Stadium 2)
Wed, Dec 23 J Youth semi-finals (Nagai Stadium)
Sun, Dec 27 J Youth final (Nagai Stadium)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Honda helps VVV rise back up table

A couple of "assists" from the Japan international see his team spank Sparta 5-0 and rise to a mid-table position. For once, this was not a one-man show and augers better for VVV's chances of avoiding the drop straight back down to the second division if Honda departs during the January transfer window.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Narazaki Makes Clean Sheet Comeback

As expected, Japan's first choice goalkeeper, Seigo Narazaki made a return to action in this game. This marked his first game at top level action since breaking a finger in the game against Gamba on 23 August. This game also saw Australian international Kennedy make a return after his somewhat shorter absence of a couple of games. Unfortunately, the team was unable to celebrate the influential duo's return with a victory as the closely fought contest ended 0-0.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Hiroshige Nakabayashi
Tomoaki Makino, Koji Nakajima, Kohei Morita, Ryota Moriwaki
Kazuyuki Morisaki (Koji Morisaki 89), Issei Takayanagi (Tsubas Yokotake 57), Kota Hattori, Yusuke Kashiwagi
Kojiro Takahagi, Hisato Sato (Tadanari Lee 80)

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Maya Yoshida, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Yuki Maki 68), Alex Santos (Magnum 58)
Igor Burzanovic (Keita Sugimoto 82), Josh Kennedy

Thursday, 19 November 2009

FIFA Match-fixers Hand Victory to French

Septic Bladder and FIFA get the result they want as France are handed the final qualifying place for 2010 World Cup. A blatant handball is overlooked by the Swedish referee to ensure that the "right" team went through.

Looks like the "Fair Play" flag paraded before FIFA games can be replaced with o more honest version, "Farce Play".

Other Views
Guardian: Ireland cheated out of World Cup by cruel hand of Thierry Henry
ESPN: Henry admits handball for winning goal
BBC Panorama: The Beautiful Bung
BBC News: Match-fixing inquiry probes 200 European football games

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Gamba Ease Past Sanga in Kansai Derby

Alan's take on the Kansai Derby between Gamba and Sanga, at Banpaku on the 8th.

20,394 fans came out to fill most of the seats in Banpaku for this Kansai Derby game, with Gamba looking to a maximum three points and some goals to help them in the final run-up for the top sport, or at least an ACL spot. And, after a disappointing draw against Yokohama F Marinos in their last J.League game, this was just what the doctor ordered for the Gamba faithful.

Yasuda got his first start in a while at left back, after Nakazawa injured an ankle in training. Recent left back Takagi moved to partner Yamaguchi in the center to make room for Yasuda. Gamba started, as always, with their patient possession, but Kyoto pressured them into some early mis-placed passes and also tried to hit Gamba on the swift counter-attack. One such event occurred in the 7th minute, when a quick ball out found Yanagisawa and Diego with space to exchange passes, but Fujigaya saved from Yanagisawa. Lucas tested the Kyoto keeper at the other end a minute alter, his shot from distance proving to hot to handle but the keeper scooped it up at the 2nd attempt.

In the 16th minute Fujigaya made a smart reflex save from Sato but this was as good as it got for Kyot, until a final minute goal from Yanagisawa, but we're getting ahead of ourselves now!

Gamba continued with the possession and passing that is their trademark, but Sidiclei, in fine form was dropping deep and bolstering the defence and Kyoto survived by putting men behind the ball until a breakthrough came in the 35th minute. Lcas threaded a superb ball through to Pedro Junior, who turned and twisted Nakatani at last man before blasting past the keeper for the opening goal. Nakatani went down as he tried to turn and keep up with the Gamba forward, and played no further part in the game.

In the 38th minute, Yasuda, who had been up and down the left with enthusiasm, if not effect, cut inside and got off a shot that was saved, the ricochet flying high and Yasuda attempting a bicycle kick on the 2nd attempt, which succeeded only in setting the ball up for Lucas who slid the ball just wide of the post. So Gamba went in at the break one goal to the good, but looking for more.

In the 58th minute, Sidiclei, who had been faultless up to this point, was robbed in midfield by Lucas, the Brazilian then split three defenders with a precision pass to allow Pedro Junior to chalk up his 2nd goal of the game with a blast past the keeper from 15 yards or so. And so the floodgates opened, Endo was by now finding his rhythm in a big way and his passes were opening up space all over the park.

A minute after the goal, Sidiclei, either tiring, or still upset from his mistake - or both - earned himself a yellow card for a desperate push, the free kick from Endo coming close to adding to the score, but it was not long before Endo did influence the scoreline as the Japanese national team midfielder pounced on a loose ball in the midfield, advanced, drew a couple of defenders towards him and slipped the ball to Hashimoto on his right, who made no mistake in drilling past the keeper. 3-0 and looking good for Gamba Osaka.

And it wasn't long before Gamba made it four to the good, Endo and Lucas exchanging smooth passes before the Brazilian almost nonchalantly side-footing the ball through a gap in the defence from 18 yards out and inside the post with the keeper beaten. Perfect placement, precision passing, 4-0! And there was still time for Lucas to hit the bar from a Shimohira (on for Yasuda in the 80th minute) cross, although it was Kyoto who added to the scoreline as Yanagaisawa took advantage of a wicked bobble off Myojin as a corner came over, blasting the inviting bouncing ball into the net to make the final score Gamba Osaka 4-1 Kyoto Sanga.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Disgruntled Davi Missing Japan?

Whilst the rumour mill is suggesting Japan international Marcus Tulio could be joining he exodus to the Middle East, one of the earlier exports is said to be hankering for a return to Japan.

The Daily Cyzo reports that former Consadole Sapporo and Grampus forward Davi is finding it hard to adjust to life in Qatar and wants to return to the J.League. It will be interesting to see if any J1 teams takes an interest in him. It is difficult to see Nagoya doing so, Josh Kennedy is a much better fit for the team than the selfish Brazilian.

Narazaki on Come-back Trail

Japan international 'keeper Seigo Narazaki made a successful return to "competitive" action o Sunday. He started the practice game against Maruyasu Industrial, that saw a Grampus team primarily comprised of our U-18s ease to a 5-0 win.

Emperor's Cup 4th Round gives us its views on the Emperor's Cup and its need to make the draw a bit more exciting. This year has seen an improvement over recent years, but the JFA still needs to do better. (Hopefully, next year will see the Nabisco Cup also be made more relevant, by making t a genuine J.League CUp and having both J1 and J2 teams participate.)

Kashima Antlers 2 - 1 Vissel Kobe
(Antlers - Nozawa 55', Danilo 88', Vissel - Ishibitsu 48')

Sagan Tosu 1 - 3 Gamba Osaka
(Sagan - Havenaar 47', Gamba - Lucas 9', Pedro Júnior 40', Myojin 50')

Yokohama F. Marinos 1 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale
(FM - Yamase 57', Frontale - Juninho 32', Yajima 85'

F.C. Tokyo 0 - 3 Vegalta Sendai
(Nakahara 25', Nakashima 59', Marcelo Soares 89')

F.C. Gifu 1 - 0 JEF United Ichihara Chiba
(Yoshimoto 45' )

Nagoya Grampus 3 - 1 Júbilo Iwata
(Nagoya - Yoshimura 42', Yoshida 52', Sugimoto 83', Jubilo - Cullen 5')

Meiji University 1 - 3 Albirex Niigata
(Meiji - Yamamoto 46', Niigata - Oshima 16', Yano Goal 40' & 64')

Shimizu S-Pulse 3 - 0 Ventforet Kofu
(Hara 33', own goal 49', Nagasawa 55')

The quarter finals look like this:

Kashima Antlers v. Gamba Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale v. Vegalta Sendai
F.C. Gifu v. Nagoya Grampus
Albirex Niigata v. Shimizu S-Pulse

The winners of the top two ties play each other and, as can be seen, the three favourites are all in that half of the last eight :-( The bottom half of the quarters shows us that Gifu have a chance to make it "only" having to beat Nagoya and Albirex or S-Pulse to book a final place.... we can but dream.

But isn't it about time the Emperor's Cup went to a drawing format in every round - -la-FA Cup and other tournaments around the world. Once the first round is played, all teams go in the hat for a random draw, the first team in each tie being pulled out of the bag getting the home advantage? Logical, more fun for the fans and a little more exciting as there would be more chances of smaller teams getting their chance of a hit on a big team!!

The current pre-determined draw is boring and predictable, as well as often throwing up, for example, F Marinos vs. FC Tokyo in Kyushu!! What's the point?

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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Grampus Ease Past Jubilo in Tokai Cup Derby, Face Gifu Next

Nagoya eased to a comfortable 3-0 win over local rivals Iwata in the Emperor's Cup. This takes them through to the quarter-finals, where they will meet even more local rivals Gifu.

Nagoya Grampus
Koji Nishimura
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Keita Sugimoto 66), Alex Santos (Kei Yamaguchi 74)
Igor Burzanovic, Yuki Maki (Milos Bajalica 81)
Scorers: Yoshimura 42, Yoshida 52, Sugimoto 83

Jubilo Iwata
Naoki Hatta
Kosuke Yamamoto, Daisuke Nasu, Takayuki Chano, Jo Kanazawa (Kentaro Oi 57)
Sho Naruoka (Takuya Matsuura 74), Ryu Okada (Hideto Suzuki 59), Keisuke Funatani, Norihiro Nishi (Kota Ueda 85)
Ryoichi Maeda, Robert Cullen
Scorer: Cullen 5

Kiwi All Whites Join World Cup Party

The New Zealand football team will be joining Japan and Australia in South Africa next year. The emerged 1-0 winners over Bahrain before a partisan crowd of 35,000 in Wellington. That puts them several steps ahead of the likes of Scotland and Wales, who couldn't even make it to a play-off place.

Other Links: Video: All Whites highlights
NZ Herald: Soccer: All Whites victory reverberates around the globe
NY Times/Reuters: New Zealand Qualifes for 2010 World Cup

Monday, 9 November 2009

Cerezo and Vegalta to Join J1

A hat-trick from Inui helps Cerezo Osaka clinch promotion beck to J1 in style, with a comfortable 5-0 home win over Kusatsu. Vegalta Sendai will be joining them in the top tier, as they also romped home with a 4-0 thrashing of Mito Hollyhock. Cerezo are 10 points clear of third, with 101 points while Vegalta are two points back on 99,meaning that the J2 title itself is still up for grabs for one of these two teams. Vegalta's continued participation in the Emperor's Cup probably giving the Osaka lads the edge.

The third and final promotion place looks like going down to the wire, as Shonan Bellmare and Ventforet Kofu lie level on 91 points and are separated by a mere one goal on goal difference.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Vissel Shoot Selves in Foot

Much maligned Montenegro international Igor Burzanovic capitalizes on a Vissel mistake early in the game to give Nagoya a much needed home win. With Josh Kennedy out with a bad back, Magnum out for several weeks again, and Tamada playing through an injury, the battered and bruised home team was there for the taking. However, with Japan international Yoshito Okubo missing the game, the visitors lacked the inspiration or precision to take advantage.

The visitor's woes were in increased when Korean midfielder Kim Nam Il condemned compatriot Park Kang Jo to a cameo appearance of just nine minutes by getting himself sent off early in the second half. The lively Park had only just come on a substitute when his team was reduced to ten men, forcing manager Miura to promptly yank him off the pitch again. Even so, Kobe had several chances to get back on level terms, hitting the woodwork on a couple of occasions.

Nagoya Grampus
Koji Nishimura
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Keita Sugimoto 73), Alex Santos (Tomohiro Tsuda 59)
Keiji Tamada, Igor Burzanovic (Kei Yamaguchi 85)
Scorer: Burzanovic 15

Vissel Kobe
Tatsuya Enomoto
Yosuke Ishibitsu, Kunie Kitamoto, Teruaki Kobayashi, Ryosuke Matsuoka
Hiroki Kishida (Park Kang Jo 58 > Hideo Taaka 67), Kim Nam Il, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto (Hirouki Komoto 64), Botti
Takayuki Yoshida, Hiroto Mogi

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

VVV Shopping in Nagoya (Again?)

Numerous reports have been circulating about the player VVV Venlo hope to sign, presumably in place of Keisuke Honda, who is expected to move up to a bigger club in the January transfer window. In addition to Cerezo's Shinji Kagawa, who is expected to train with VVV in December, they have made a formal offer for Grampus defender Maya Yoshida, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Needless to say, Nagoya are not taking this lightly since Maya is one of our key players for the future. They will be negotiating a new contract with Yoshida over the next few days. See this Sponichi article (in Japanese) for more details.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Gamba to Sneak It?

Alan has his blue-tinted specs in full working order it seems. :-)

Tokyo and S-Pulse fans should forgive me for not considering them too much in this equation but I think it's down to Frontale, Antlers and Gamba to either win it or allow the others to take it. These three SHOULD take the ACL spots, though. But who will make it to the top on the final day? A first-time Champion in Kawasaki? Or a three-peat for Antlers? Or will Gamba pull back those four points and take it!!?

Let's take a look.....

This weekend sees the teams enter the fray with four games left and 12 points to play for. Kashima are home to Montedio who are now safe and will have little to motivate them now that the pressure is off. If Kashima don't win this one, they won't deserve the title! Frontale will finish off JEF, who are not quite mathematically down so just might give it all and surprise the top team! But it's doubtful! Gamba take on Kyoto and should take the points... if they don't the title will probably be out of reach, unless both Kashima and Kawasaki both lose today - an unlikely scenario!

Three games to go and Kawasaki have an away day at already relegated Oita. The pressure being off them Trinita MIGHT see them score a win and upset the apple cart! Kashima away at mid-table Ktoto, who have nothing to play for should see maximum points for Antlers, while Gamba are away at S-Pulse. Gamba need to win that to stave off S-Pulse, open up a gap and push for the final games. A defeat here for Gamba will see them finished in the hunt for the Championship, and have their ACL spot in danger, also.

The penultimate game MIGHT see a winner already, but, of course the powers-that-be in the J.League will be hoping for a last day finale. Kashima Antlers v. Gamba Osaka will kill off one or the other, or may kill off both if they draw and Frontake beat Albirex. But ALbirex will be still going for that 3rd ACL position and will pull out all the stops!

The final game sees Kashima Antlers away at Urawa Reds who will be playing for pride.... Kawasaki Frontale are away in Kashiwa, who will probably be relegated already and nothing to play for? Gamba entertain JEF, who will also be in J2 by then ? It looks as if Kashima have the toughest final hurdle.

It's going to go down to the wire??!! :-)

Let's play a little game here..... here's what it looks like going into the game this weekend, with four games to go...

Kawasaki Frontale 55 +22
Kashima Antlers 54 +13
Gamba Osaka 51 +15
Shimizu S-Pulse 50 +12
F.C.Tokyo 49 +9

... and here are the predictions.... Nov.8th

Kashima 3-0 Montedio
FC Tokyo 1-0 Reds
Frontake 4-0 JEF
Gamba 4-1 Kyoto
Kashiwa 0-3 S-Pulse

... then we'll have...

Kawasaki Frontale 58 +26
Kashima Antlers 57 +16
Gamba Osaka 54 +18
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +15
F.C.Tokyo 52 +10

... Nov.21st ...

S-Pulse 1-2 Gamba
Kyoto 1-2 Antlers
JEF 1-3 FC Tokyo
Oita 1-1 Frontale

... giving us...

Kashima Antlers 60 +17
Kawasaki Frontale 59 +26
Gamba Osaka 57 +19
F.C.Tokyo 55 +12
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +14

... Nov.28th/29th

Antlers 1-2 Gamba
Frontale 1-2 Albirex
FC Tokyo 1-1 Vissel
Marinos 2-1 S-Pulse

... so, with one game to go it looks like this...

Gamba Osaka 60 +20
Kashima Antlers 60 +16
Kawasaki Frontale 59 +25
F.C.Tokyo 56 +12
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +13

and, so, down to the last game of the season.....


Reds 4-1 Antlers
Reysol 0-4 Frontale
Niigata 2-2 FC Tokyo
Gamba 5-2 JEF
S-Pulse 0-2 Nagoya

.... so the final table looks like this - really - place your bets NOW!

Gamba Osaka 63 +23
Kawasaki Frontale 62 +29
Kashima Antlers 60 +13
F.C.Tokyo 57 +12
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +11

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Grampus Ease into Emperor's Cup 4th Round

Nagoya keep their hopes of winning some silverware this season alive, with a hard-earned win over HOnda Lock in he Emperor's Cup.

Nagoya Grampus
Koji Nishimura
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Alex Santos 58), Magnum
Keiji Tamada (Keita Sugimoto 75), Josh Kennedy (Yuki Maki HT)
Scorers: Yoshimura 68, Maki 79

Honda Lock FC
Sawamura, Ueda, Shirakawa, Maeda
Kanaishi, Etsuda, Takei, Yamasshita (Harada 3)
Sudo (Kumamoto 66), Mizunaga