Sunday, 28 February 2010

Last Gasp Goal Earns Gifu Share of Honours

A near full-strength Grampus only manage a 1-1 draw against J2 neighbours Gifu in today's preseason showdown. (Aussie striker Josh Kennedy is away with the Australian squad ahead of their Asian Cup qualifier on Wednesday.) An early Keiji Tamada goal being cancelled out three minutes into injury time by Nishikawa.

Richy over at Forza FC Gifu has a report on this game. His summary of the game, which I was unable to attend due to other commitments, was:
Nagoya (with Kennedy the only big omission), really dominated the first half. Gifu had about two chances but Nagoya were just too good. Tamada dribbled in a nice goal. In the second half though, from the outset, Gifu came in more determined, and while still outplayed, they put in a few more shots, whereas Grampus seemed to be sitting back on their lead. Gifu scored a nice goal through Nishikawa in overtime, and we were understandable really stoked!
Nagoya seemed to be treating this as just a training match, and although the talent and skill of the team was undeniably higher, and they could have probably won about 4-0, I guess it's to Gifu's credit that they kept plugging away till the end and got a result for themselves.

nagoyagrampus-s.gif Grampus11 fcgifu-s.gif
FC Gifu
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 1 Seigo Narazaki Kyohei Noda (Tatsuya Murao 83) 1 GK
DF 32 Hayuma Tanaka (Akira Takeuchi 67) Shinji Tominari (Yasutaka Nomoto 68) 19 DF
DF 4 Tulio Kazunori Yoshimoto 3 DF
DF 3 Takahiro Masukawa (Mitsuru Chiyotanda 67) Hideyoshi Akita (Shuto Tanaka 73) 6 DF
DF 6 Shohei Abe (Alex Santos 59) Shun Nogaito 17 DF
MF 20 Keiji Yoshimura (Danilson HT) Suguru Hashimoto 23 MF
MF 9 Igor Burzanovic (Naoshi Nakamura 63) Tomohiro Yamauchi (Shogo Shimada 73) 20 MF
MF 8 Magnum Yudai Nishikawa 16 MF
MF 25 Mu Kanazaki Kazunori Kan 7 MF
FW 11 Keiji Tamada (Yoshizumi Ogawa 63) Yuki Oshitani 27 FW
FW 16 Yuki Maki Koichi Sato (Kazuki Someya 83) 18 FW

Friday, 26 February 2010

Honda Makes Bright Start in CL

Keisuke Honda had a decent game against Sevilla in the Champions League, but the home team could only manage a 1-1 draw. The Japan international showed that he can contribute at this level, demonstrating some typically deft touches along with some pot shots on goal. However, the Spaniards now hold the advantage in the tie having scored an away goal as well as earning a point.
BBC Sport: CSKA Moscow 1-1 Sevilla

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Gamba Hold Blue Wings as ACL Gets Under Way

Alan at gives us his take on last night's game in Korea, as Gamba got off to an unconvincing start. (They were lucky not to concede a goal, but equally should have scored themselves. HIrai, in particular, guilty of a couple of bad misses early in the first half, before disappearing from view. The draw was a reasonable result in the end.)

Gamba Osaka opened their 2010 season with this AFC Champions League group match in Korea against Suwon Blue Wings, before jetting straight to Tokyo to prepare for the Super Cup match against Kashima Antlers on Saturday.

With Yamaguchi injured, Takagi was drafted in to centre back and Michihiro Yasuda took over the left back role that Talagi had been controlling in the latter stages of last season . Despite the retaining of Cho - and the reported improving of relations between him and Gamba coach Nishino - and the signing of two other strikers in Brazilians Dodo and Ze Carlos, it was Hirai who got the start up front alongside Lucas and, if reports from in the Gamba camp were anything to go by, this would be Nishino's preferred top two for the coming weeks.

Fujigaya - with the retirement of Matsuyo - now firmly camped in the goalkeeping position, saw Kaji, Nakazawa, Takagi and Yasuda line up in front of him. The expected midfield four of Myojin and Endo as the defensive-looking pair, and Hashimoto and HashimotoFutagawa and Endo made up the starting members.

Kaji was soon in the wars as he was hacked down from behind and needed treatment in the 2nd minute and, a minute later, after his return to the field of play, he picked up an early caution as he exacted a little revenge on the Korean goal line.

Kang Min Soo picked up a yellow in the 13th minute for a dangerous two-footed tackle on Myojin. The free kick went long and Hirai showed his potential with a smart move and a volley that beat the keeper but went across the goal. But Gamba's tails were up and two minutes later, Futagawa found Hirai with a through ball, but the young forward's shot was weak and straight at the keeper. But the signs were promising for the Japanese team.

The game progressed with midfield play from both teams and little penetration from either team and Gamba's plans were disrupted somewhat when Nakazawa had to leave the field just before half-time, to be replaced by rookie Suganuma. It was looking as if Gamba might be without both first choice centre backs for the J.League season opener Super Cup at this point!

Kaji and Yasuda saw more of the ball in an attacking capacity over the last minutes of the half but the session ended with no score. Half time 0-0.

In the 3rd minute of the 2nd half, Myojin and Yasuda combined well on the left to put Hashimoto through but the midfielder scuffed his shot whole with the goal to aim at. Seconds later Lucas was caught offside when seemingly through and, once again, things looked promising for Gamba, with gaps starting to appear in the home defence. In the 54th minute Yasuda got down the left again and his cross was met by Hashimoto who saw his shot hit the post and bounce across the goal, but it was beginning to look like Gamba's game as they put more and more passes together and started to find openings. But it was Suwon who came close after Suganuma gave away a free kick 35 yards out and the shot came in low and hard to force Fujigaya into and awkward save and a corner ensued.

Then there were chances at both ends within seconds of each other as Fujigaya made a smart save with his right foot anf the ball was soon up the other end for Hirai to be stopped with a last gasp interception as he pulled the trigger. Seconds later Futagawa found Hashimoto running through with a superb looping pass and Hashimoto's lob over the onrushing keeper was inches wide of the post - the game was opening up and it seemed only a matter of time before Gamba opened the scoring, and Hirai was given the opportunity again in the 68th minute as another superb through ball from Futagawa put him through but his shot was wayward and over.

In the 71st minute expectations were raised as Hashimoto was taken down just outside the penalty area and Endo got his first chance to show what he could do from 25 yards out ... but the way fans were disappointed as his shot flew a yard over the goal. In the 78th minute Nishino played his hand, replacing Hashimoto and Hirai with Cho and Usami, and adding a little more bite to the attack. Cho was nursing a broken bone in his hand but was keen to show the Korean fans what they were missing, and Usami was soon in action as he played a smart wall pass with Lucas, and looked to be through, only to be brought down cynically on the 18 yard line. Endo's free kick cleared the wall but was easily scooped up by the keeper to keep the away team frustrated.

Myojin was now in obvious pain, after a knee in the side on a reckless challenge, but all three subs had been used and Gamba had to be careful not be left exposed in the middle, but they were still going for it as a Kaji cross was headed back across the goal by Cho and Usami's shot was just over. Soon after, though Gamba were down to ten men as Myojin had to leave the field and the home team piled on the pressure in the dying minutes. But the game remained scoreless and Gamba Osaka would probably be satisfied with an away point against their biggest rivals in the group.

Nishino noted that, for an opening game it was not too bad and Gamba seemed to control good portions of the game and he was reasonably satisfied with the performance.

Gamba Osaka:
GK - Fujigaya
DF - Kaji, Nakazawa (Suganuma), Takagi, M. Yasuda
MF - Myojin, Endo, Hashimoto (Cho), Futagawa
FW - Hirai (Usami), Lucas

In other ACL news:
Daily Gomiuri: Frontale's Nakamura KO'd

Monday, 22 February 2010

Kansai Roundup: What can we expect from our teams?

Vissel logo

The new season is fast approaching, kicking off on March 6th. What can we expect of our local teams in Kansai/Kinki, Gamba Osaka, Cerezo Osaka, Kyoto Sanga, Vissel Kobe and Tokushima Vortis? Read on for a red-eyed summary. :-)

For a detailed review of all the teams in J1, see Ken Matsushima's 2010 Preseason Summary over at the Rising Sun News. (Now happily clear of Gremlins it seems.)

Gamba Osaka

The blue brigade will again be the best of our local teams, and we can expect them to be a serious contender for the league title again. However, they have not really strengthened the squad in the off season and their hectic early schedule with its ACL group games will likely take its toll. (This is also true of current champions Kashima, and makes both teams a bit more vulnerable than it appears.) As the season progresses, their slick passing game will once again see them rise above the fading challengers. Another top four finish should certainly be within their reach, but I cannot quite see them grasping the title itself.

Cerezo Osaka

Over in the cherry pink half of Osaka, all eyes will be on the talented Shinji Kagawa and Takashi Inui. If manager Levir Culpi's charges can thread their scintillating passes together in J1, they will be one of the most attractive teams to watch, and could surprise many people by rising into the top half of the table. However, the team's lack of height and physical presence could see them falter badly if they cannot string their passes together.

The experience and class of new arrivals such as Bando and Moniwa should ensure that it is the happier outcome that prevails.

Kyoto Sanga

Kyoto look set for another struggle to maintain their J1 status for another year. As was the case last year, they have marginally improved their squad and should once again prove good enough to secure a mid-table finish. Unfortunately, I cannot see them being very attractive in doing so.

Vissel logo
Vissel Kobe

The scarlet bulls could find themselves marooned on a sinking ship if they are not careful. Although J2 goal phenom Tokura should be a good foil to the wily Yoshito Okubo, and can only be an improvement on the arthritic Marcel, he is unproven in J1. This will be of little help though if the temperamental and injury-prone Yoshito is missing from the lineup. The fiery forward is doubtful for the opening games, as are defender Kondo and midfield maestro Botti. A poor start to the season could well see Vissel struggle to avoid the drop. They desperately need a fit and motivated Okubo leading them forwards. Otherwise they could find their place in J1 going across the Inland Sea to Tokushima.

Tokushima Vortis

The Naruto based Vortis surprised many last year with a solid mid-table finish in J2. They have succeeded in retaining the core of that team and have added the extra talent and depth needed to mount a challenge for a promotion place. However, the battle for a top three finish in J2 will be fierce this year, and Vortis will need to be lucky with avoiding injuries to key players if they are to succeed in their ambition of joining the top flight.

Milos to play in ACL again (against Gamba)

Former Grampus defender, Milos Bajalica, is set to play in this year's ACL. He has joined Henan Construction F.C., who qualified for this year's ACL tournament by 'winning' the Chinese Super League. Bricking a couple of Gamba players would probably not go down too well in Japan. :-)

Official Grampus PR (Japanese)

Kansai Roundup: Cerezo Update


This is the final in our series of updates on the transfers in and out of our local teams in Kansai (as of Feb 22). Of course the biggest (and best) news for Cerezo fans was a transfer that did not occur. This was Shinji Kagawa opting to prove himself in J1 before considering a move overseas.

DF: Takahiro Ogihara (Promoted from Cerezo U-18s) FW: Akinori Nishizawa (Retired)
FW: Ryo Nagai (Promoted from Cerezo U-18s) GK: Masahito Suzuki (Retired)
GK: Kenjiro Ogino (From Mineyama High School, Kyoto) DF: Kenjiro Ezoe (Loan to Kataller Toyama)
FW: Daisuke Takahashi (Full transfer from Oita Trinita) FW: Takuya Kokeguchi (Full transfer to Kataller Toyama)
DF: Taikai Uemoto (Full transfer from Oita Trinita) DF: Thiago (Released)
GK: Kenya Matsui (Full transfer from Jubilo Iwata) MF: Yuji Funayama (Returning to Kashima Antlers after loan)
DF: Teruyuki Moniwa (Full transfer from FC Tokyo) GK: Daisuke Tada (Loan to Omiya Ardija)
DF: Naoya Ishigami (Full transfer, after loan, from Kashima Antlers) FW: Kento Shiratani (Loan to Mito Hollyhock)
FW: Ryuji Bando (Full transfer from Gamba Osaka) DF: Takashi Hirajima (Full transfer to Tokushima Vortis)
MF: Hiroshi Kiyotake (Full transfer from Oita Trinita) DF: Akihiro Sakata (Full transfer to Shonan Bellmare, after loan to same)
MF: Akihiro Ienaga (Loan from Gamba Osaka) MF: Bruno (Loan expired)
MF: Amaral (Full transfer from Vasco da Gama, Brazil.) MF: Kaio (Loan expired.)
FW: Adriano (Loan from Internacional, Brazil. ) *FW: Kim Bo-Kyung (Loan to Oita Trinita)
*MF: Takeshi Hamada (Full transfer to Tokushima Vortis)

* Updated info.

Kansai Roundup: Sanga Update


Next up in our series of summaries, Kyoto Sanga (as of Feb 22). Like Cerezo, they have a good balance of ins and outs, but at the moment it is difficult to say that this has strengthened the team.

DF: Kwak Tae-Hwi (Full transfer from Chunnam Dragons) DF: Sidiclei (Released)
MF: Dutra (Full transfer from EC Santo André) FW: Takanori Hayashi (Full transfer to JEF United)
DF: Thiego (Loan from Grêmio) DF: Kazuki Teshima (Retired)
MF: Shingo Suzuki (Full transfer from Oita Trinita) GK: Kenya Matsui (End of loan from Jubilo Iwata)
MF: Yosuke Kataoka (Full transfer from Omiya Ardija) MF: Yuto Sato (*Full transfer to JEF United)
DF: Takayuki Fukumura (From Osaka Toin High School) DF: Lee Jung-Soo (Full transfer to Kashima Antlers)
*FW Dan Howbert (Aichi Gakuin University) FW: Yohei Toyoda (Loan to Sagan Tosu)
*GK Tsuyoshi Kodama (Kansai University) FW: Yohei Toyoda (Loan to Sagan Tosu)

*=Updated info.

Kansai Roundup: Vortis Update


The fifth part of a four-part series, here is a brief rundown of the confirmed comings and goings at J2's Tokushima Vortis. In addition to the new players listed here, they have also now acquired Jun Aoyama on a full transfer from Nagoya, rather than the loan of last season.

FW: Takuma Oka (Promoted from Vortis Youth) GK: Daijiro Takakuwa (Retired)
GK: Oh Seung Hoon (From Hunan University) MF: Koji Kataoka (Retired)
FW: Ryuichi Hirashige (Loan from Sanfrecce Hiroshima) FW: Yuki Ishida (Released)
DF: Yuya Hashiuchi (Loan from Sanfrecce Hiroshima) FW: Hiroyuki Hayashi (Released)
DF: Takashi Hirajima (Full transfer from Cerezo Osaka) DF: Taisei Fujita (Full transfer to FC Machida Zelvia)
FW: Tomohiro Tsuda (Loan from Nagoya Grampus) FW: Fabio (Loan expired)
MF: Jun Aoyama (Full transfer from Nagoya Grampus) DF: Kazuto Tsuyuki (Loan expired)
DF: Naoki Wako (Full transfer from Ventforet Kofu) MF: Satoshi Koizumi (Retired)
DF: Kosuke Yatsuda (Full transfer from Yokohama FC) MF: Yasuaki Oshima (Full transfer to Giravanz Kitakyushu, after loan to same)
MF: Yusuke Shimada (Full transfer from Omiya Ardija)
MF: Takeshi Hamada (Full transfer from Cerezo Osaka)

Kansai Roundup: Gamba Update


Here is the summary of Gamba's moves to date, as of today Feb 22. Not too many changes, as this is a team that is not only more likely to sign big name players, but is also in a position where they do not need to strengthen the first team much.

GK: Kohei Kawata (From Fukuoka University) DF: Park Dong-Hyuk (Full transfer to Kashiwa Reysol)
MF: Shigeru Yokotani (Return from loan at Ehime FC) GK: Masaki Kinoshita (Full transfer to Roasso Kumamoto, after loan to same team)
DF: Tatsuya Uchida (Promoted from Gamba Youth) FW: Masafumi Maeda (Loan to Ventforet Kofu)
*FW: Ze Carlos (Portuguesa) GK: Naoki Matsuyo (Retired)
*FW: Dodo (Ehime FC) FW: Ryuji Bando (Full transfer to Cerezo Osaka)
FW: Masahito Yamazaki (Loan to Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
MF: Aki Kurata (Loan to JEF United)
MF: Shinichi Terada (Loan to Yokohama FC)
MF: Akihiro Ienaga (Loan to Cerezo Osaka, from loan at Oita Trinita)

*=Updated Info.

Kansai Roundup: Vissel Update

Vissel logo

A brief rundown of the confirmed comings and goings at Vissel Kobe, as of Feb 22. (All links take you to the official Japanese announcement by the club.)

MF: Edmilson (Full transfer from Oita Trinita) FW: Daisuke Sudo
FW: Ken Tokura (Full transfer from TheSpa Kusatsu) DF: Toshihiko Uchiyama (Full transfer to Ventforet Kofu)
GK: Jun Kamita (Promoted from Vissel Kobe Youth) MF: Seiji Koga
DF: Daisuke Tomita (Full transfer from Omiya Ardija) FW: Hiroki Kishida (Full transfer to Fagiano Okayama)
FW: Popo (Full transfer from Kashiwa Reysol) FW: Shota Matsuhashi (Full transfer to Roasso Kumamoto)
MF: Masatoshi Mihara (Loan
return from Zweigen Kanazawa
DF: Ryuhei Niwa (Full transfer to Sagan Tosu)
FW: Kohei Mishima (From Komazawa University) GK: Tohei Doi
FW: Yutaro Takahashi (From Fukuoka University) FW: Nobuhiro Uetani ( Full transfer to Albirex Niigata Singapore)
*MF: Ryota Morioka (Kumiyama High School) FW: Marcel
*FW: Koki Arita (Hokuetsu High School) MF: Alan Bahia
DF: Noriaki Ishizawa
MF: Tae Yeon Kim (Full transfer to Fagiano Okayama)
MF: Kim Nam Il (Full transfer to FC Tom Tomsk)
DF: Masaki Yanagawa (Loan to Ventforet Kofu)
MF: Kenji Baba (Loan to Shonan Bellmare)
DF: Shusuke Tsubouchi (Loan to Omiya Ardija, from loan at Oita Trinita)
GK: Kota Ogi (Loan to Ventforet Kofu)

* Updated info.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

New Look Grampus Off to Slow Start

With our Japan caps back from international duty, the new look Grampus played its first serious practice game yesterday. This saw them take on local rivals Shimizu in a series of three 45 minute games. This resulted in an overall 2-3 loss, with most of the damage coming in the first 45 minute game, which S-Pulse won 2-0. However, Burzanovic pulled a goal back in the second game, and Maki scored after coming on in the third.(The lineups below are for the first two 'halves' only, with the second half changes in parentheses.)

nagoyagrampus-s.gif Grampus Shimizu S-Pulse
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 1 Seigo Narazaki Yohei Nishibe 21 GK
DF 32 Hayuma Tanaka Daisuke Ichikawa 25 DF
DF 4 Tulio Keisuke Iwashita 5 DF
DF 3 Takahiro Masukawa (Mitsuru Chiyotanda 24) Eddy Bosnar (Kosuke Ota) 33 DF
DF 6 Shohei Abe (Alex Santos 7) Arata Kodama (Yasuhiro Hiraoka) 2 DF
MF 20 Danilson (Keiji Yoshimura) Akihiro Hyodo (Shinji Tsujio) 13 MF
MF 10 Yoshizumi Ogawa Takuya Honda 16 MF
MF 8 Nasoshi Nakamura (Igor Burzanovic) Shinji Ono (Teruyoshi Ito) 30 MF
MF 25 Mu Kanazaki Jungo Fujimoto (Kazuki Hara) 10 MF
FW 11 Keiji Tamada (Magnum 18) Frode Johnsen (Genki Omae) 18 FW
FW 16 Josh Kennedy Shinji Okazaki 23 FW

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Gamba to Move to Takatsuki?

Probably not, but NHK Kansai ran a story last night about the breakdown of negotiations between the club and Suita City over their proposed new stadium. (See original post about both Cerezo and Gamba aiming to move to new stadiums by 2011.)

According to NHK and now the NikkanSports, Gamba's negotiations with Suita City have stalled over the City's insistence on receiving all of the money pledged towards the building of a new stadium, and its insistence that said stadium to be a 'city facility'. As a result, Gamba are said to considering other options, including a site in Takatsuki, near Ibaragi station. (I wonder if this is the same site that is a temptingly vacant lot between Ibaragi and Nunobe, which would offer TWO rail options for getting to the stadium.) This would be far more convenient than anywhere that is only served by the sloth-like Osaka Monorail.

Interestingly, the local resident I work with at the National Museum of Ethnology in Suita, says that Gamba has always had a close connection with Takatsuki since it has a stronger footballing history, and a Takatsuki base would likely improve attendances. (Of course one reason for Gamba's comparatively low attendances is Banpakus' 20,000 capacity and its remote location.) I suspect, that this 'news' is probably just a negotiating tactic, but it will be interesting to see what happens later this year. The delays already mean that a 2011 start is very unlikely. Even Japanese builders are going to find it tough to design and complete a new stadium within one year. :-)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Countdown Begins...

In what maybe bad news for Gamba Osaka fans, Japan duly crashed to a 3-1 defeat to South Korea to finish third in the 4-team East Asian Championship. An entirely predictable result given the uninspired starting lineup Takeshi Okada sent out.

Will the pleasant but ineffective manager be allowed to lead Japan to another ignominious World Cup disaster? Not if the JFA has any sense. After all, this is a manager who quit football management for a career giving lectures on his sport. Something better suited to the affable and well-educated Okada. His return after Osim was struck down by a stroke should have been temporary until the JFA found a permanent and more experienced replacement. Now they are stuck with inept manager out of his depth again. Unfortunately, common sense is not the JFA's forte, so Oka-chan is probably safe until the inevitable disgrace. A loss to Asian minnows Bahrain in March, however, could see even the bumpkins at JFA House realise the futility of the current situation.

Other Views
Japan Times: Okada escapes sack
Asahi Shimbun: East Asian Championship: S. Korea gives Okada's team reality check

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Grampus Romp to 6-0 Win Over Fukuoka

In the second practice game of their training camp, Nagoya coasted to a 6-0 over Fukuoka University on Wednesday. They had beaten a high school team earlier in the week, a game in which Josh Kennedy and Yuki Maki did most of the damage. Not surprisingly, most the starters from that match were rested or given a limited run out against Fukuoka.

Although these practice games offer little insight into how the team will play come the start of the season, it is an opportunity for players to stake their claim in the core of the squad. With Narazaki, Tulio, Kanazaki and Tamada all away with the Japan national team, the competition for places even on the subs bench will be tough this year.

1st Half Grampus
GK: Yoshinari Takagi (Koji Nishimura HT)
DF: Hayuma Tanaka (Gishi U-18s HT), Akira Tekeuchi (Tatsuya Arai HT), Mitsuru Chiyotanda, Shohei Abe
MF: Naoshi Nakamura, Shinta Fukushima, Keiji Yoshimura, Magnum
FW: Keita Sugimoto, Yuki Maki
Scorers: Chiyotanda 17, Sugimoto 25, 43

2nd Half Grampus
GK: Koji Nishimura
DF: Hikaru Kishi [U-18s] (Ryota Isomura 69), Tatsuya Arai, Genta Matsuo, Academy Student A
MF: Sho Hanai, Danilson (Yoshizumi Ogawa 69), Academy Student B, Taishi Taguchi
FW: Koji Hasimoto, Igor Burzanovic (Hikaru Kuba 69)
Scorers: Academy Student 49, Taguchi 57, Hashimoto 61

Some photos from this practice game can be found on the club's Japanese site.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Tamada Nets Brace for Japan

Grampus forward, Keiji Tamada scored two of Japan's three goals against East Asian minnows Hong Kong. In a game played in a torrential downpour, Japan struggled to break down their well-organized opponents and this was another far from convincing display. In particular, Mitsuo Ogasawara and Sota Hirayama had a disappointing game after looking the best of a bad bunch against Venezuela. (Yoshito Okubo looked as useless as always at this level.) Sota in particular reverted to his clumsy oaf persona that has prevented him making the most of his obvious talent.

Although this was an unconvincing performance by Japan, Hong Kong were aided by having their best player between the posts. Yapp Hung Fai made several smart saves, that kept the scoreline respectable, but also helped Japan get off the mark after an error. Japan needs to learn how to move the ball around quickly so that they can get past teams that pull everyone behind the ball, or they will be making an early return from South Africa in the summer. Despite 65% possession in this game, they never succeeded in breaking down the HK defence. Tamada's two goals were the result of poor defending and the third, was a typically sumptuous header by Tulio from an Endo corner.

Other Views
Japan Times: Tamada guides Japan to 3-0 win over Hong Kong
FIFA Ass-kissers: Japan breezes past Hong Kong

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Vissel Injuries Piling up...

Vissel logo
We are still three weeks away from the start of the new season, but Vissel Kobe are already suffering something of an injury crisis. First, defender Gakuto Kondo went down with a 2-month injury, a couple of weeks ago. Now, second-choice goalie, Kenta Tokushige is also out for two months.

This does not bode well for the new season, where Kobe will be even more reliant on the temperamental Okubo than ever. With a shallower squad than last year, they are one injury away from looking certain relegation candidates.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Honda Nets Easy Goal in CSKA Debut

Keisuke, and CSKA, get off to a winning start in the friendly Copa del Sol competition. This was followed by another later in the 'competition'. A good start, but let's see how copes with the Russion winter. :-)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Narazaki Saves Oka-chan's Bacon

Another poor showing from Japan see them struggle to a 0-0 draw against Chine in the 'East Asia Championship'. Another fitful display saw little in the way of chances for Japan, with Okubo and Tamada both shooting wildly on the few occasions that Japan did manage to pose a threat. (Wasn't able to watch the match, and it seems I didn't miss much, unlike Japan's 'strikers'.)

Other Views
Daily Gomiuri: Saving grace / Japan keeper Narazaki stops late PK in scoreless draw with China

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Gremlins Take Out the RSN

Some of you may be wondering what has happened to Ken Matsushima's wonderfully informative Rising Sun News site. Well, the Gremlins have got at it and it has disappeared for a while.

At least, we hope it has only disappeared for a while. The loss of such a valuable, if opinionated, resource would be a blow to many J-League fans. (You never know, after Tuesday's pathetic display, maybe it was Japan NT manager Oka-chan who sent in the Gremlins.) Even now, fingers are working feverishly to try and revive the site, but it may be a while before Ken has it back up and running.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Venezuela Earn Comfortable Draw Against Rusty Japan

The Kobe Samurai over at beems in a report on Japan's game against mighty Venezuela. 

Japan 0-0 Venezuela  -  Kirin Challenge Cup, Feb. 2nd, 2010

Japan kick off a new year of football against South American opponents as they take on Venezuela tonight. Many expected Hirayama to get a start, especially with Tamada under the weather, and Ogasawara to get his first start in three years or so. Well, we got Oga, we didn't get Hira -
Okubo and Okazaki starting up front ....  read on for the starting line-up and as-it-went match report!

Narazaki returned in goal, after his injury lay-off. I think, barring injury we will be seeing the Nagoya keeper between the posts in South Africa. Nothing coming up looking likely to displace him as yet. Centre backs, Tulio - newly-signed to Nagoya, and captain Nakazawa - another guaranteed starter in South Africa? Probable starting right back Uchida was out sick, giving a chance at the right back sport. His FC Tokyo team mate Nagatomo trying to make the left back spot his own. The midfield
was interesting - Inamoto - newly-signed bargain for Kawasaki Frontale held the defensive spots with Endo. Ogasawara and Kengo Nakamura the more attacking duo in the midfield four. The aforementioned Okubo and Okazaki up top. Okubo, Inamoto and Ogasawara hoping to cement World Cup spots in the next few months .... Okazaki, Endo and Nakamura (both of them!) are probably already pencilled in and have their seats reserved!

The bench appeared to contain another 11 or 12 options and we may well see most of them by the end of the game .... plenty of youth there ready to put in a claim for a place, including Hirayama (FC Tokyo), Inui, Kagawa (both Cerezo), Kanazaki (Nagoya), Ishikawa - also back from a lay-off, and Muramatsu (Bellmare), who missed his chance in the young team out out against Yemen through illness.

So, onto the game ....

A quiet, uninspired start by both teams was jolted out of its stupor in the 16th minute when Ogasawara let fly from 25  yards out, forcing a smart save to his left  from the Venezuelan keeper. Soon after Okubo
headed on a goal kick to Okazaki, who fed Nakamura in a promising position but his left foot shot was scuffed off-target.

In the 27th minute Venezuela another promising position with the ball going straight out of play for the second time free kick in a row, Tulio and Nakazawa not having been tested except for one weak cross and header into the arms of Narazaki early in the game. A minute later, Okubo earned a corner, quickly taken short by Nakamura to Okubo, who crossed nicely for Ogasawara sneaking in past the defence, but the Antlers midfielder's completely missed what seemed an easy header from a few
yards out.

In the 32nd Venezuela had a free kick, inswinging from the left that was headed clear by Inamoto, although most of the crowd and the referee thught it was an attacking header!

Then Okazaki raced onto a bouncing ball and tried to chip the outcoming keeper, who got a hand to it, the ball falling to Okubo who nipped around the keeper but stumbled as he tried to control the ball and the chance was lost.

The game settled back into stagnation until the 41st minute, when Okubo latched on to a wall pass and tried to slip between three defenders and fell heavily. Endo or Ogasawara? Nakamura also hung round, and Tulio and Nagatomo joined the discussion before Endo hit it tamely against the

A minute later, a long cross from the right found Tulio still up in the area. The Nagoya centre back chested it and hit a speculative overhead kick that the crowd enjoyed, although, in reality it almost went out for a throw-in! The game was crying out for some magic, a few good passes strung together or a quick break from a full back, finished with a super cross, to enliven a dull first half. We were going to have to wait a bit longer, though. In the last few seconds we were treated to Nakazawa -
one centre back - crossing from the right to Tulio, the other centre back at the far post. But the ball was too high. Half time 0-0, and not a lot to write home about! I wonder who will be asked to liven this up.

Um... in a word .... uninspiring! Let's see what transpires in the 2nd half!

The 2nd half began with the same 11 being given a chance to wake this game up before the expected multiple changes. I'd like to see Kagawa given his shot, as well as Hirayama to feed off him.

The half didn't start well as Tulio gave the ball away on an aimless, inaccurate long ball after 20 seconds! Here's hoping we see an improvement on that! The numerous empty seats in the stadium - an unusual occurrence at any national team game - won't be filled for the upcoming Asian Championship games if this is what we can expect! But Okubo woke the quiet crowd up in the 47th with a speculative, but unexpected shot from 25 yards out that hit the side netting ....  a moment later, Ogasawara sent in a low blast that stung the keeper's hands. And then the game exploded into life for a few seconds - although
in the wrong way - as Tulio raised his arm as he went for a header, well before the ball came. His opposite number had a little go back and the hot-headed centre-back over-reacted and earned a yellow card, giving away a free kick in a dangerous area. needless to say, in keeping with Venezuela's set-pieces so far, the free kick came to nothing.

Tulio could take a leaf out of Nagatomo's book. In the 53rd a Venezuelan player went tumbling and rolling into the FC Tokyo left back, who just left his foot in the way and the foolish South American went into it, getting straight up - miraculously, considering he'd just been rolling around - and stood up to Nagatomo. Nagatomo just puffed his chest out and stared back as another opposition player barged him from behind. The Japanese back barely batted an eyelid as he was battered between the to players, not falling for the over-acting or baiting of the opposition AT ALL!

Unfortunately, this argy bargy was about all the excitement we were getting so far as the game approached the hour mark. And... finally, changes. Tokunaga made way for Komano - who has proved to change games at times, and Nakamura was replaced by Hirayama for his 2nd start and the biggest cheer of the night so far. Averaging three goals per game (!) in his full national team career so far, could the lanky FC Tokyo forward continue his hot streak!? Okubo dropped back into midfield to accommodate Hirayama and it was those two that combined moments later as Okubo twisted past a defender on the left and got in a right foot cross for Hirayama to get on the end of - but not this time. The crowd was noticeably louder, though!

Hello to my Venezuelan visitor reading this report! Sorry to have to say that your team haven't impressed at all, yet! But then again, neither has Japan ...  ten shots for Japan have brought  few saves, three shots
from Venezuela have not troubled Narazaki.

On 66 minutes Venezuela replaced their 17 year old debutant - no.7  with no.9 London. The
no.7 had run around and not seemed short of confidence, but had not been given any service.

In the 70th, Inamoto advanced down the left and his cross turned into a shot that had the keeper scrambling to tip the ball over the bar for a corner. Japan's 4th corner of the game didn't even clear the first defender as Ogasawara messed it up. A minute later, though, and it was Okubo again, beating a defender on the left and crossing for Okazaki, but his weak header was wide.

Okubo was getting around and upsetting the right back who earned a yellow card as the Vissel forward had his ankle stamped on, but it was Ogasawara who, again, couldn't even beat the first defender in a
pathetic cross. Seconds later he was deservedly replaced by Kanazaki, and Sato came on for Okazaki as Okada juggled it again! Where is Kagawa is all I have to say? The game is crying out for his flair!

Next Okubo popped up on the right and got between two defenders, but his cross was blocked and came to nought. Okubo's effort today could not be faulted. In the absence of a goal or some fine play in the final 12 minutes or so by someone in blue, we were looking at the MVP - if there was to be one, as Kirin will, as usual desperately milk coverage at the end of the game for their sponsorship!

In the 82nd a Komano cross proved the best chance of the game but Sato scuffed his header from 8 yards out.

Finally, in the 85th minute Kagawa came on, unfortunately it was for the hard-working Okubo, but at least the Cerezo youngster got his chance. This was turning into the kind of game that a few years ago Japan would lose in the final minutes on a lucky goal, but more recently it seems that Japan would be getting the late goals - we'll see!

Kagawa finally got his feet to the ball in the 88th minute and skipped past three Venezuelans, unfortunately he was facing his own goal as he did it. But a moment of brightness from the diminutive Kobe-born midfielder came seconds later as he took a quick free kick and the ball found Hirayama on the edge of the area. The forward skipped past a challenge and seemed to be brought down, but the referee bottled it, giving a handball against the Japanese forward as he fell down on the

And, just as Japan seemed to be raising the game slightly, the referee blew the final whistle with little or no lost time, despite their being around ten substitutions in the half!?

Ex-Japan international Yamaguchi came rushing on and made for Inamoto for his interview, the newly-minted Kawasaki Frontale player having had a decent, if unspectacular game in what is probably Hasebe's position at the moment! Next up for the microphone treatment came Hirayama ....  I didn't stick around for the Kirin promotion awards!!

129 days to the World Cup and plenty of work to be done!