Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Grampus Edge Emperor's Cup Thriller

A tense, thrilling Emperor's Cup semi-final sees Nagoya earn the first place in the final. Sugimoto's final penalty kick bounds into goal after rebounding off the S-Pulse goalie, after the teams ended 1-1 after regulation and extra time.

Nagoya got off to the better start, looking the better team for the opening 10 minutes. A Yoshimura shot from Josh lay-off fizzed past a post, but they failed to really test Yamamoto. Shimizu gradually got into the game and am Okazaki looping shot drifted over as they begam to look the sharper team. This was soon followed by a Fujimoto shot that was easily saved by Narazaki. They duly took the lead when Okazaki latched onto long through-ball to beat a hesitant Narazaki to the ball and flick it into an unguarded goal. Nagoya's efforts were hampered by slow buildups and poor crosses meant a Kennedy looping header that drifted wide was one of their few serious efforts. S-Pulse continued to look the sharper team and Fujimoto sent a powerful shot straight at Narazaki, that was easily saved. As the half wound down, Maya Yoshida sent a glancing header from a corner agonizingly wide.

HT: 1-0

Nagoya started the second much as they did the first, and this time looked a bit more purposeful and effective. This was exemplified when Josh sent a crashing header against the bar, from a deep Alex cross. And alathough Okazaki sent a flying header from a Frode cross flashing wide, as he was challenged by Yoshida. Kennedy proved a constant problem for the Shizuoka team and Yokoyama conceded PK as he tangles with the lanky forward in box. Tamada calmly converted the PK to level the scores. Unfortunately flaps at resultant corner. Josh makes good turn on edge of box, but his cross from the bye-line was a bit too long to find a red shirt. Live-wire Okazaki then sent a close-range effort from Frode Johnsen's lay-off wide of post. The former Grampus striker then made a good turn in the Grampus area to break clear, but Maya made a crucial block to send his goal-bound effort for a corner. S-Pulse midfielder, Hyodo then sent a long-range effort harmlessly over Narazaki's bar. Grampus sub Sugimoto made a useful break down the left after an Alex interception, but blazed wide when he had time to pick out a red shirt. The final action of regulation saw another Hyodo blast sail over.

FT: 1-1

Midfield dynamo Kei Yamaguchi replaced Igor Burzanovic at start of extra time and was promptly called on to head a Johnsen header off the line. The game then entered a decisive period as Narazaki denied Okazaki with some blinding saves to keep us in the game. This eventually meant that as the game went to penalties, we ere always in the stronger position as the Japan keeper's reputation was always going to put pressure on the S-Pulse kickers.

Penalties: Kennedy nets first with clinical kick. Ichikawa then smashed his against bar to make it 1-0 after the first kicks. Alex then made it 2-0 before Kodama nets his to make it 2-1. Tamada, Hara, Ogawa and Okazaki all converted their kicks to set the stage for Sugimoto. He sent his effort dramatically into the bar, but the ball rebounded off the underside of the woodwork and trickled into the goal off the prostrate Yamamoto. And thus we advanced to the final, 5-3 on penalties.

Shimizu S-Pulse
Kaito Yamamoto
Daisuke Ichikawa, Yasuhiro Hiraoka, Arata Kodama, Yusuke Ohta
Akihiro Hyodo (Hara 112), Takuya Honda, Masaki Takuma Edamura, Jungo Fujimoto (Shinji Tsujio 84)
Shinji Okazaki, Jun Nagazawa (Frode Johnsen HT)
Scoer: Okazaki 16

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Takahiro Masukawa, Maya Yoshida, Alex Santos
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Naoshi Nakamura (Keita Sugimoto 74), Keiji Yoshimura (Yuki Maki 115), Igor Burzanovic (Kei Yamaguchi 90)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy
Scorer: Tamada 56 (PK)

Other Coverage
Australian FourFourTwo: Emperor's Final Spot For Josh

Ouch! Gamba GKs falling like flies

Gamba Osaka go into today's Emperor's Cup semi-final against Sendai having to field their third choice goalie. Both Fujiigaya and Matsuyo are down with the flu.

GK受難!藤ケ谷インフルに続き松代が打撲…G大阪ピンチ - スポーツ報知 - Yahoo!スポーツ from Yahoo Japan Sports

Monday, 28 December 2009

Maya Headed to VVV

Nagoya's 21-year old defender Maya Yoshida will be joining VVV Venlo in the new year, on a 2 1/2 year contract. Having just been called up to the Japan national squad, I am little surprised that this move went ahead. Yoshida's slim chances of making the Japan squad for South Africa have probably disappeared altogether. However, if he can settle in at VVV and adapt to the more physical game in Europe, then it will be good news for Japan in the future.

Announcement of Maya's tranfer (Japanese)

(This announcement would have been made after the Emperor's Cup, but Yoshida foolishly allowed himself to be photographed at a farewell party and this appeared on somebody's blog, forcing the club into the rather hurried announcement.)

After the release of Milos Bajalica earlier in the week, this leaves us one central defender lighter than we were this season. Tulio and Masukawa had better be fighting fit come 6 March. :-)

Announcement of Bajalica's release (Dec 26) (Japanese)

Other Coverage
Japan Times: Nagoya's Yoshida seals Venlo move
Goal: Japan Defender Maya Yoshida Leaves Nagoya Grampus For VVV Venlo
ChuSpo: 吉田VVV移籍決断

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Tulio Joins Grampus

As expected, former Urawa defender Tulio will be joining Grampus next season. Our General Manager, Kazumasa Kume, announced on Tuesday that he had agreed to join, although no official announcement was made until today, since Wednesday was national holiday in Japan.

Grampus Press Release (Japanese)

The rumoured salary of 120 million yen will make him our highest paid player and put him on the same salary as the manager.

ESPN: Japan defender Tulio swaps Urawa for Nagoya
Reuters: Japan defender Tulio agrees to join Nagoya

As was the case with Mu Kanazaki, the prospect of playing under manager Dragan Stojkovic seems to have been a factor in the decision. Let's hope the manager lives up to expectations next year, after a somewhat indifferent second year in charge. With Kanazaki and Tulio in the squad, the team should have a very real chance of challenging for the title, especially if they keep Maya Yoshida, and add another midfielder, as seems to be likely.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Maya and Mu Called Up for Japan Squad

Nagoya's inspirational central defender is added to the Japan squad for the upcoming game against Yemen on 6 January. And about friggin time too. (Not that we really expect Oka-chan to give him a game.)

Mu Kanazaki is also in the squad, but is still listed as an Oita player. (His recent transfer will not be officially registered until the start of the registration period in January.)

The full squad announced of today (21 December). It is a very youthful squad. (The only reason Cerezo's Kagawa is not included is that he is still recovering from the recent operation on his foot.)

GK: Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo), Shusaku Nishikawa (Oita Trinita)

DF: Gotoku Sakai (Albirex Niigata), Taisuke Muramatsu (Shonan Bellmare), Kosuke Ota (Shimizu S-Pulse), Maya (Grampus), Tomoaki Makino (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Naoki Kikuchi (Oita Trinita)

MF: Takuya Aoki (Omiya Ardija), Naoki Yamada (Urawa Reds), Takuji Yonemoto (TC Tokyo), Takashi Inui (Cerezo Osaka), Yosuke Kashiwagi (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Mu Kanazaki (Oita Trinita), Kazuya Yamamura (Ryutsu-kaizai University)

FW: Yuya Osako (Kashima Antlers), Sota Hirayama (FC Tokyo), Kazuma Watanabe (Yokohama Marinos), Kensuke Nagai (Fukuoka University)

Grampus Official PR (Japanese)

Tokyo Avalanche Buries Grampus Kids

OK. It wasn't that cold, and the snow was just a few brief flurries of sleet towards the end of an otherwise pleasant, but crisp afternoon. Unfortunately, the only crispness displayed on the pitch came from the Tokyo U-18s as the romped to a 7-1 victory. (Fortunately, our U-15s and U-12s are a bit more competitive. The U-12s recently won their national tournament, and the U-15s romped to a 6-0 win yesterday.)
23 Dec: It looks as though this result may be a case of FC Tokyo being very good, rather then Grampus being particularly weak. The Gas Boyz romped to a 5-1 win over Gamba Youth in their semi-final.

As for the game itself, a fairly even opening few minutes revealed that not much has changed since Maya Yoshida and company lost to the same opponents four years ago. Grampus looked organized, and tried to pass the ball more effectively than their predecessors, but the Tokyo U-18s were sharper and more direct. Nagoya custodian Furukawa had already been forced into a good save early on before the Tokyo-ites took the lead with a soft looping header from Shigematsu after 17 minutes. They then added two more before the break, a another header (this time by Yamaguchi) and a somewhat dubious penalty converted by Shigematsu. Nagoya meanwhile struggled to create chances, and the defence looked increasingly fragile. In addition to the three goals they scored, Tokyo had seen one good effort slip the wrong side of a post and two more smack the bar.

The second half stared with a flurry of goals, as Umenai extended Tokyo's lead before a brilliant piece of work by Takehara on the left saw him cut along the goal line and score from an impossible angle. (He has also had one dangerous dribble in the first half.) Tokyo then got another even more questionable penalty after Kishi had made a successful challenge that got the ball, but also allowed the forward to go down under the challenge. Not only did the inexperienced ref give the PK, but to add insult to injury Kishi was sent for an early shower. The 10 men were then overwhelmed with three goals over the next three minutes (including the converted PK) before adding an own goal later in the half to complete a miserable afternoon for the team.

A rare foray forward by the Grampus U-18s

This game exposed the vast variation in the level of teams at the U-18 level. Nagoya had progressed to this stage by virtue of their ability to romp equally emphatic victories over the other teams in their qualifying group more effectively than the Kyoto Sanga U-18s. The two games between the Sanga U-18s and Grampus U-18s had been split with each wining by the odd goal. Clearly, Grampus have to find a way to give their youth team some more competitive practice games if they are to raise their game so that they will be able to compete for a title at this level.

FC Tokyo U-18
Che (1)
Hiroki (4), Hiraide (6), Matsufuji (26), Abe (3)
Mita (14), Yamazaki (18), Toshimori (8), Umenai (11)
Shigematsu (10), Yamaguchi (9)
Scorers: Shigematsu 17, 43, Yamaguchi 27, Umenai 48, 65, Mita 65, OG 72
Substitutions: Hoshi for Yamaguchi 50, Sasaki for Toshimori 64, Maeoka for Shigematsu 64, Muto for Mita 68, Kakuda for Umanai 78

Nagoya Grampus U-18
Furukawa (16)
Iwata (2), Kishi (4), Okuyama (19), Andou (8)
(5), Mizuno (27), Obata (9), Miura (6)
Yada (10), Takahara (21)
Scorer: Takahara 49
Substitutions: Onishi for Miura 61, Kawaamoto for Ando 65, Kato for Takahara 82.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Grampus Win Race to Sign Mu

Nagoya sign Mie native Mu Kanazaki from relegated OIta Trinita. This should prove a great signing since the 20-year old Mu is one of the best young midfielders in the league, and he adds some creativity in a position where we badly need it.

If the team succeeds in signing Tulio from Urawa, and keeps key defender Maya Yoshida, then we should have a much better season next year and could well challenge for the title. (Update 21 Dec.: It looks like we may well sign Tulio as well.)

Official Club PR (Japanese)
ChunichiSports Article (Japanese). This adds some additional details such as the fact that it is a three-year contract, and estimated salary.
Japan Times: Sources say Tulio to join Grampus

Kiwis Finish Fifth

New Zealand's Auckland City finish fifth in the FIFA Club World Cup taking place in the UAE. Goals by Jason Hayne and Riki Van Steeden seeing the Kiwis snath victory in the final seconds of the game.

Other Views
BBC Sport: Mazembe beaten by Auckland City

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

CSKA Moscow Keen On VVV Playmaker Keisuke Honda - Report - Goal.com

Yes. The Russians are said to be after Keisuke too. The lad has good English, but not sure about his Russian. :-)
CSKA Moscow Keen On VVV Playmaker Keisuke Honda - Report - Goal.com

In a further development, VVV have said that a deal could soon be agreed IF Honda is interested in going to Russia.
Goal.com Article (Japanese)
(This may be unlikely, he has established himself in Holland and has expressed a preference to move within Holland if possible. Can't see him moving to a new country before the World Cup.)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cerezo to Hang On to Kagawa (till Summer)?

In what could be good news for the pink half of Osaka, it looks like Cerezo may well get to keep Shinji Kagawa until the summer. If the following NikkanSports article is to be believed, Kagawa has rejected a move within Japan, but the club is inserting a clause into his contract that will allow him to transfer to a overseas club after this summer's World Cup. This would be a sensible move for both player and club. It would allow Kagawa to prove himself in J1, without having to rush his rehabilitation after his recent operation, and should allows the club to get a transfer fee when he does leave.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Grampus Youngsters to Clash with Gasboyz (Again)

Its deja vu all over again for followers of the annual J Youth Cup. (This year known as the J Youth Sunstar Tonic Cup.) In a repeat of the clash hat saw the likes of Maya Yoshida, Toru Hasegawa, Oribe, Nikawa, Sho Hanai and Ryota Isomura bow out of the 2006 edition (when it was known as the Sahara Cup), the Grampus U-18s are set to meet their FC Tokyo counterparts at Nagai 2 on Sunday 20 December. Grampus emerged as narrow 1-0 victors against the Cerezo U-18s yesterday.

The full timetable for the semi-finals are:
- Jubilo Iwata Youth vs Kashiwa Reysol U-18, 11 AM KO at Nagai 2 (Osaka)
- FC Tokyo U-18 vs Nagoya Grampus U-18, 2 PM KO at Nagai 2 (Osaka)
- Tokyo Verdy Youth vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima Youth, 11 AM KO at Best Amenity Stadium (Tosu)
- Yokohama Marinos YOuth vs Gamba Osaka Youth, 2 PM KO at Best Amenity Stadium (Tosu)

VVV Climb into Top Half

An early goal, after the keeper spilled a Honda free kick, sparks VVV Venlo to 3-0 win. A result that takes them into the top half of the table. It is beginning to look as though they may well prove good enough to survive in the top division this time.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Josh Speeds Nagoya into Emp Cup Semis

A Josh Kennedy hat-trick sees Nagoya Grampus ease into the semi-finals of the Emperor's Cup. These goals take his total for the season well into double figures, and means the team can sill has a chance to win some silverware this season. (It also saw my cold take a sudden change for the better.)

In a game that saw the J1 team in comfortable control, if not dominant, the lanky Australian scored his tenth goal for the team with a glancing header from a Shohei Abe, just before the break. He then added two more in the second half, one with either foot, to set-up another encounter with Shimizu S-Pulse in the semi-final. (Let's hope the water bottles will be safe from Pixie's boot this time.)

Gifu gave as good as they got in the first half, and could easily have taken the lead themselves in the closely fought opening 45 minutes. However, their chances were thwarted by another impressive showing from Narazaki. He made one good save late in the half to keep the visitors off the scoresheet and Kennedy's strike near the end meant that Nagoya were able to enjoy a far more relaxing second half. Their extra speed, skill and fitness became ever more influential and they eventually ran out as comfortable winners.

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Keita Sugimoto (Maya Yoshida 74), Naoshi Nakamura (Alex Sanotos 60), Keiji Yoshimura, Igor Burzanovic (Sho Hanai 81)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy
Scorers: Kennedy 44, 67, 82

FC Gifu
Kyohei Noda
Shinji Tominari, Yoshimoto, Shuto Tanaka, Hideyoshi Akita
Kazunori Kan, Suguru Hashimoto, Kazumasa Takagi (Kazuki Someya 74), Shogo Shimada (Satoshi Otomo 86)
Yudai Nishikawa, Koichi Sato (Takuma Nagayoshi 74)

Other Views
Japan Times: Kennedy's hat-trick shoots Nagoya into Emperor's Cup semis

Friday, 11 December 2009

Another Grampi Struck Down with Flu

Nagoya midfielder Yoshizumi Ogawa has gone down with the flu. (Season A-type flu, not the avian variety.) This means he is likely to miss the Emperor's Cup game against FC Gifu on Sunday, as will the suspended Magnum. Unfortunately for Gifu, Alex Santos and Igor Burzanovic are looking good in training and should prove more than adequate replacements.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Grampus Move to Sign Tulio?

Grampus has revealed that they have made an offer to Urawa's discontented defender, Marcus Tulio, whose contract expired this year. Not sure how realistic this offer is likely to be, but would bolster our defense IF Maya Yoshida remains with the club. That would give us two good central defender, rather than one and several erratic sidekicks. :-)

ChuSpo: Grampus make formal offer for Tulio (in Japanese)
Japan Times (21 Dec): Sources say Tulio to join Grampus

Botti Out for 3-months

Vissel have announced that influential midfielder Botti has had an operation to fix a problem in his lower back, at a hospital in Wakayama. He expected to be out for three months. This makes it doubtful if he will be available for the start of the season.

Vissel Kobe Site: Press release announcing Botti's back operation in Japanese (of course)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Kagawa Recovering Well from Surgery

Cerezo Osaka's midfield star, Shinji Kagawa, seems to recovering well from the operation for the troublesome toe injury. (He seems to have had a screw inserted to fix the problem.) This injury had prevented him from taking full part in several games over the closing stages of the season, and he had the operation as soon as the team had clinched promotion back to J1. (Sorry, can't see any news about this in English yet.)

Cerezo Press Release announcing the operation on November 24 (Japanese)
SpoNichi article about the operation and his possible transfer VVV Venlo (Japanese)

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Narazaki Remains Unbeaten

Japan custodian Seigo Narazaki remains unbeaten since his return form injury, maintaining another clean sheet against S-Pulse yesterday. Apart from that, the only other notable interest for Grampus fans was the dismissal of Magnum. This will keep the Brazilian out of the Emperor's Cup tie against GIfu next weekend.

Shimizu S-Pulse
Kaito Yamamoto
Daisuke Ichikawa, Yasuhiro Hiraoka, Arata Kodama, Yusuke Ohta
Akihiro Hyodo, Takuya Honda, Masaki Yamamoto (Takuma Edamura 25), Jungo Fujimoto
Shinji Okazaki, Jun Nagazawa (Frode Johsen 69)

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa (Keito Sugimoto 87), Kei Yamaguchi (Naoshi Nakamura 58), Alex Santos (Keiji Yoshimura 71), Magnum (Sent Off 80)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Japan Draw Holland, Cameroon and Denmark

Japan get a tough group in last night's World Cup draw. They will do well to finish in one of the top two places, with both Cameroon and Denmark likely to fancy their chances of joining Holland in the knockout stages. However, that has not stopped their inexperienced manager bravely (suicidally?) repeat his goal of reaching the semi-finals.

Kyodo News: Soccer: Japan coach Okada sticking to semifinal goal after World Cup draw

Honda Seals Another Venlo Victory

Keisuke Honda scores from the penalty spot late in last night's game against Willem II. A result that sees VVV in 11th place and with a 3-point gap between themselves and the group of five teams near the relegation zone.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Frogs Get their Knickers in a Twist

Having cheated their way to the final qualifying place for World Cup, the French get into a tizzy for not being regarded as one of the best eight teams in the world. :-)

Daily Telegraph: World Cup 2010: France fume at seedings 'injustice'

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Antlers 5 - 1 Gamba (A Tale of Two Different Games?)

Peter's view of the proceeding at Kashima Stadium last weekend, followed by the a link to Alan's blue-rinsed version. :-)

Well, a draw was no good for Gamba and possibly no good for the Antlers. We didn't get one.

Gamba were very lucky to survive continuos pressure for the first 25 minutes. They seemed to have survived that and from about the 25th minute gave as good as they got; from then till Lucas was sent off in the 68th minute this was a cracking game. At HT it still 0-0. From the 56th to the 62nd minute we had four goals in six minutes.

56' 1-0 (Antlers)
58' 2-0
60' 1-2
62' 1-3

68' Lucas sent off
I'm not complaining about Lucas's red card. Sure, the second yellow was doubtful; but the first yellow card was a bad, bad foul. I would have sent Lucas off for the way he protested it; at that time I thought the ref was very weak and too soft on Lucas. But I'm sure Lucas's vigorous protestation of that first yellow must have riled the ref--it should have riled him more.

Gamba fought proudly till the end, despite the final score line.

Shots: 20-12
GKs: 9-16
CKs: 4-2
Poss: 52%-48%

Those stats tell the story: the Antlers were the sharper and the more penetrative despite having only slightly more possession. They played very aggressively in defence, moving on to the Gamba attackers very quickly.

Gamba played the calmer football, but it was the Antlers who showed the real urgency.

Nishino described it as "kanpai"--a decisive and deserved defeat. He was right.

Visit www.jsoccer.com to see Alan's view, which starts with this opening para. :-)
The scoreline doesn't tell the whole story as Gamba took this to Antlers and, but for a few decisions going against them - hello Mr. Yoshida! (two denied PKs, a red card for Lucas) - they could have been in the lead late in this game, instead of having to finish the game in a 1-4-4 formation and leaving themselves open for two more late strikes as they went for goals!

Still not enough? Here are some other reports of the game.
The Japan Times: Oliveira's Antlers move closer to another title
Daily Gomiuri: Antlers crush Gamba, but party still on hold