J-soccer monthly review
Brown on the latest action in Japanese soccer.
November 10, 2003 The Urawa Reds finally
showed they belong among the elite of Japanese club football. The
curse of potential has dogged the Reds for many years; now they
have lived up to it, thrilling the most avid supporters in Japan.
On November 3rd, the Saitama squad thumped perennial
powerhouse Kashima Antlers in the Nabisco Cup to earn its first
champion-ship in the ten-year history of the J.League. Led by perhaps
the J.Leagues best forward line Brazilian Emerson and
Tanaka Tatsuya Urawa overwhelmed the injury-hobbled Antlers
4-0, with Emerson scoring twice and Tanaka once.
This was payback for the 2002 Final that featured
the same two teams, but which Kashima won 1-0 on national team member
Ogasawara Mitsuos goal. In this years match, the mercurial
midfielder Ogasawara playing without injured fellow national
team members Nakata Koji and Motoyama Masashi
was sent off early in the second half for an awkward challenge from
behind. This earned him a second yellow card and an early trip to
the dressing room.
When the final whistle blew, Reds players mobbed
coach Hans Ooft in a gesture of unbridled affection. After the match,
though, the affable Dutchman shocked all by announ-cing his resignation
effective at the end of the current season. The former Japan national
team and Jubilo coach alleged that Urawa brass had for several months
been searching for his replacement behind his back.
Criticized by some for the timing of the announcement
there was concern about the effect it would have on the teams
second-stage title hopes Oofts team was as of mid-November
at the top of the J.League following a 5-1 thrashing of Tokyo Verdy
on November 8th. The Reds were at this point in sole possession
of first place with 22 points from 12 matches. On the same weekend,
Nagoya Grampus came from behind to defeat Yokohama Marinos 3-2,
leaving the Marinos (and three other teams) in second place with
three matches remaining.
At the other end of the table, Kyoto Purple Sanga
kept the relegation demons at bay for the time on November 8th being
by upsetting JEF United 3-2 in a thrilling match on a perfect fall
Saturday afternoon in Kyoto. This earned Sanga three full points
to pull even with Oita Trinita (though trailing on goal difference)
and put the team three points ahead of Sendai, which lost to Jubilo.
The bottom two J1 teams will be demoted to J2 next year.
After JEF conducted a fifteen-minute passing drill
and nearly scored on several occasions at the beginning of the first
half, Sanga players finally woke up. Kyoto forward Kurobe Teruaki
rolled one past JEF goal-tender at the 24-minute mark of the first
half to put Sanga up 1-0 and this changed the tenor of the
match. As Coach Pim Verbeeck noted at the post-match press conference:
"It was a strange game. We started badly, but Kurobes
goal came at a good time; it completely changed the game."
In the second half, with Kyoto pressing forward,
Kurobe again found his range. From 37-38 yards out, he blasted the
ball into the top right corner at the 60-minute mark. Joking afterwards
about what he called a "fantastic goal," Verbeeck said
that he would have his team practice "40-yard kicks" in
the coming week.
Matsui Daisuke got the game winner with ten minutes
remaining. With the game seemingly out of reach, Matsui was taken
off following a long match and a week in which he saw action in
Hong Kong and the Middle East with the Olympic team. JEF substitute
Hayashi Tetsunori, however, had other ideas. He scored twice
in the last five minutes to give the Nishi-kyogoku faithful a bit
of a scare. When the game was over, the stands pulsated with applause
and the shrieks of women clad in low-rider jeans and bangles and
Another view of the match though came from a visiting
Dutch journalist. Of the level of the game, he said: "Japanese
players have great skills on the ball, but technically they are
shit. #27 (Sangas Kakuda Makoto)s defending was all-wrong.
They havent figured out stuff you learn when you are a kid
in Holland. A lot of them couldnt play amateur football in
The Asahi Newspaper treated its readers to rather
more glowing reports of Matsui and his Olympic as they enjoyed a
successful tour overseas in early November. The Olympic team won
twice, downing Hong Kong and Qatar the latter now led by
Phillippe Troussier, the obsessive Frenchman who coached Japan in
last summers World Cup without allowing a single goal.
JEF'S Abe Yuki and Marinoss Nasu Daisuke received much media
attention. The former stroked a free kick goal against Qatar; the
latter anchored the defense in both matches.
With the J.League 2003 regular season now finished,
eyes will turn to this month to the Emperors Cup. Defending
champions Kyoto Purple Sanga will lead the Kansai contingent in
a month-long event that climaxes on New Years Day, 2004, with
a Final at Tokyos National Stadium.