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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Another Crucial Lesson

Although Ken, over at the Rising Sun News, likes to diss the AFC Champions League, it is slowly becoming a useful tournament for Japanese clubs. Yes, the standard of the teams is very varied, but the Korean teams in particular provide J-League teams with some serious competition. Last week's game between Gamba and Suwon Bluewings, and Tuesday night's game between the Antlers and Jeonbuk were fast, entertaining games with some good football. They were also the sort of tough physical encounters that Japanese players need to get used to if they are to succeed at the world level.

The J-League is the best league in Asia, but too many of the games lack the sort of intensity that we see regularly in the top leagues, such as the English Premier League, the Spanish Primera League, or when a Japan faces fierce rivals Korea. For teams, such as the Antlers or Gamba, who make a regular appearance in the ACL, exposure to this sort of game will make their players much more able to compete on the world stage. The experience and confidence Atsuto Uchida and Mitsuo Ogasawara will have gained form last night's game will prove invaluable to Japan in the World Cup. As long as the J-League continues to allow its unworldly referees to mollycoddle players who stand there like a lemon waiting for the ball to arrive, rather than moving to meet it ahead of an opponent, then they are always going to find it tough when they go overseas or play competitive international games. They need to toughen up or learn to ride/evade challenges, just to make it into the first team at most clubs in Europe. Nagoya's Maya Yoshida found this out to his cost in Holland, breaking a foot in his first practice game.

Reports on ACL games:
Japan Times (3/10): Endo propels Antlers to triumph
Australian FourFourTwo (2/25): ACL Stalemate for Suwon and Gamba
Japan Times (3/11): Henan Jianye earn draw against Gamba

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