Monday, March 31, 2008

R3 - J1 Match Reports

Nagoya Grampus Eight Oita Trinita 2-1
N: Tamada 3’, Magnum 70’
O:Kanazaki 39’
Nagoya’s good start to the season continued when they hosted surprise team Oita, one of only 3 teams that had a perfect record after round 2. The recently NT-called up FW Keiji Tamada gave Nagoya a great start to the match, after a clinical finish from a Nakamura cross. The fans had to wait a long time before the next interesting event, and the match contained very few chances to both teams. Most of the play took place in midfield, with the teams fighting for possession. Mu Kanazaki scored on Oita’s first chance right before the break as he met a low cross from left-winger Fujita. The 2nd half started similar to the first, with a big chance for Nagoya, but this time the shot went outside. We had to wait until the 70th minute for the next scoring, when Nagoya’s best player this season Magnum unleashed a direct left-footed shot from distance that the Oita keeper had no chance of saving.
Oita had a few half-hearted attacks in the dying minutes, but never really looked like equalizing, and Nagoya could take a deserved 2-1 win.

Vissel Kobe Jubilo Iwata 3-2
V:Botti 49’, Kurihara 66’,72’
J: Own Goal 31’, Gelsinho 70’

Vissel Kobe is another high-flyer at the moment, and looks to be one of the outsiders for a top 2/3 finish that could give ACL next season. On Sunday, Jubilo Iwata became a number too small after Kurihara scored twice within 6 minutes. It was the away team that got off to the best start though, when a clumsy own-goal gave Jubilo the lead after half-an hour. Jubilo were marginally the better team before the break, but Vissel look totally changed for the 2nd half, and their coach must have given the players an inspirational pep-talk. It took only 4 minutes for the equalizing goal when the brazilian playmaker Botti were played free. Midwayh through the half the game geared up a notch, and we saw 3 goals within 6 minutes. First, Kurihara have Vissel the lead, but that was equalled just minutes later by Jubilo’s Gelsinho. Kurihara seemed to really want to be the match-winner and 2 minutes after Gelsinho’s goal he sent away a piledriver from 15-20 metres out that Jubilo’s keeper had no chance of saving. Vissel had a total of 17 shots to Jubilo’s 11, and were deserved winners.

Kashima Antlers Yokohama F Marinos 2-1
K:Marquinhos 33',Danilo 85'
Y:Komiyama 67’

The biggest match of the round took place in Ibaraki, where two teams with perfect records clashed together. A good result was important for both teams, but already from the beginning Kashima seemed the most likely team to win, as they had the most chances and most of the possession. After 30 minutes or so the in-form striker Marquinhos gave the home team the lead with a well placed shot, after being played free by a back-heel pass from the inspirational Mitsuo Ogasawara. Despite having most of the possession, Kashima didn’t have too many big chances, but they did a good keeping Yokohama at bay as well. However, midway through the 2nd half right-winger Komiyama surged down the wing, cut in, and fired away a low-placed shot that went between the legs of Kashima goalie Sogahata. Not good from the Kashima keeper, and suddenly Marinos were back in the game. The visitors had some very potent chances after the equalizer, but with 15 minutes left to play Kashima were awarded a penalty-kick , after the referee mistook a foul that took place just outside the box to be inside, and Ogasawara could fire the hosts up in the lead. But Ogasawara slipped on the rain-soaked pitch, and hit the bar with his penalty. Now Marinos had their eyes on a point, but just 5 minutes later substitute Danilo reacted quickest afte some fumbling inside the box, and scored the winning goal. All in all a deserved result, but Marinos showed they are a force to look out for this season, and a potential candidate for ACL.

Kashiwa Reysol Consadole Sapporo 1-2
K:Kamata 12’
C: Nishijima 38’, Nishi 66’

After two losses in a row, Consadole took their first points of the season with a strong and somewhat surprising win at Reysol. Reysol is regarded as one of the strongest teams in the league this season, and some pundits even rated them as a dark horse for the title. They haven’t impressed yet, but got off to a good start vs Consadole, scoring after only 12 minutes through Kamata. Somewhat surprising, Reysol’s coach chose to field the talented Oshii instead of the highly-regarded Popo up front alongside Lee.But Lee and Oshii combined well, and came to plenty of chances. However, Consadole equalied just before the break through Nishijima, with their first chance of the match. A bit against the play, but in the 2nd half Consadole got more into the match and took the lead after Nishi were played free in the 66th minute. Reysol tried to fight back, and subbed in Popo as well, but despite of several chances the match ended with a Consadole win. Reysol deserved atleast a point though.

Urawa Red Diamonds Albirex Niigata 3-0
U:Soma 43, Tulio 46, Nagai 67’

Gert Engels first match in charge as headboss at Urawa resulted in a 3-3 draw in the cup last week, and they continued their goal-galore against Albirex on Sunday, beating them by three goals to nil. That’s a major change from former coach Osieck’s tactics, who went for 1-0 wins and an ultra-defensive style.
All of Urawa’s goals were of high-standard, and it was fully deserved when winger Soma stormed into the 16-metre box and sent away a low shot that went via the near post and in right before the break. The goal of the match, and probably the best goal in J1 so far this season, came a minute into the 2nd half, when Urawa combined well with world-class passing that left the Albirex players running between, and defender Tulio got the honour of finishing it off with a well placed shot in the top-corner.Substitute Yuichiro Nagai made it 3-0 and killed the game off with another shot in the top-corner, and Urawa seems to be back on track with this win. Fans can’t remember last time Urawa won by three goals, and if Engels manages to make all his stars work together, they look the best of the lot.
Albirex on the other hand, looks poor, and might face a tough battle to avoid relegation this season. They’ve looked un-inspired in all their matches so far.

Kawasaki Frontale JEF Utd Ichihara 2-0
K:Chong Tese 2’,Kukino 44’

Kawasaki also kick-started their season this round, with their first win this year. JEF became too light for Frontale, and were lucky to only lose 2-0. Frontale have had a turbulent week, with their biggest asset Hulk falling out with the management, and is set to leave Todoroki Stadium within the next few days. The reason behind it is that Hulk hasn’t been satisfied with sitting on the bench, watching the other 3 strikers wasting tons of chances, and looking overall poor. Especially the aging Juninho have been in-effective, wasting scoring oppurtunities and acted very selfish. But it seems the Frontale coaches prefers Juninho, who’s proved his worth in J1 several seasons now, over Hulk, who’s only been active in J2 so far. For the future atleast,that sounds a bad move, and there are many clubs interested in signing Hulk’s services. Urawa Reds and Tokyo Verdy, where he played last season, seems the most probable teams, but also clbus from Brasil and Middle-East have showed interest. Against JEF the attack looked better than in previous matches though, and Chong Tese gave the home team the lead after 2 minutes. Kukino doubled that lead just before the break, but with Juninho and the other strikers wasting alot of chances this match as well, the score ended only 2-0. Kawasaki had a total of 27 shots to JEF’s 5.
JEF looked decent in their first matches, but will probably struggle in the lower half of the table this season.

FC Tokyo Kyoto Purple Sanga 3-3
T:Yoshimoto 2’, Akamine 44’, Konno 87’
K: Kakuda 18’, Watanabe 57’, Tahara 80’

Both clubs have had more than decent enough starts to their season, and especially newly-promoted Kyoto have impressed. a 3-3 result here means both teams are yet to lose, and finds themselves in the upper half of the table, which is alot higher than most people tipped.
The match were evenly contested from start to finish, and very entertaining with many chances and some nice goals. Yoshimoto gave the home team the lead after only 2 minutes, but defender Kakuda headed home a corner kick just 15 minutes after to make it 1-1. Tokyo striker Akamine broke lose right before the break, and sent the home team into a deserved 2-1 lead at half-time. The 2nd half saw Kyoto take more over, and in-form MF Watanabe scored with a beautiful placed long-shot in the 57th minute that the keeper had no chance to save. When Yutaka Tahara scored a superb goal with a direct-volley shot 10 minutes before the end, most people thought the points would end up in Kyoto, but Tokyo’s NT-member Yasuyuki Konno took responsibility and equalized yet again with 3 minutes left to play. A very open and entertaining match, and both teams got 1-2-0 after 3 matches.

Shimizu S-Pulse Omiya Ardija 0-0

As the result suggests , the match vs Shimizu and Omiya weren’t a cracker, and especially the home team looked disappointing. Omiya, who is regarded as one of the smaller teams in the league seemed to take Shimizu by surprise, and gave them a hard fight for the points. Ezumi in the Omiya goal played one of his best matches ever, and came up with several top-class saves. He even saved a penalty kick in the dying minutes, and won the MOM award. Omiya had quite alot of chances as well, but lacked precision in the finishes. Especially winger Uchida wasted some golden oppurtunities,and had one of them gone in Omiya would have won the match.

Gamba Osaka Tokyo Verdy 2-1
G:Bando 13’, Lucas 77’
T:Funakoshi 28’
It was a good day for the big teams, and also Gamba won their first match of the season when they played hosts to Verdy. The win should have been alot bigger, and despite both Bando and Lucas got on the scoresheet, neither of the 3 strikers ( the other being Bare) impressed. Their main problem seems to lie in attack,but getting a goal can do wonders with a player’s confidence, and Gamba showed signs they are reaching form here. After only 13 minutes Bando opened the scoring with a well placed shot, which topped a good day for the swift striker who created much for his team-mates. He should have scored a goal or two more though. Funakoshi equalized just 15 minutes later though, a bit against the play, and the score were still deadlocked by half-time. Gamba fought hard for their 2nd goal, and despite tons of chances they had to wait until the 77th minute, when Lucas broke free and scored the winning goal. Gamba had 19 shots to Verdy’s 5 and fully deserved the win.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cerezo Osaka - FC Gifu 1-0

Cerezo: Sakemoto 12'

Cerezo lineup:
MF: Sakemoto,Ale,Germano,Kagawa
FW: Furuhashi,Careca

Kakitani --> Sakemoto 62'
Ezoe --> Careca 71'

Shots: Cerezo 5 / Gifu 8
Cards: Sakemoto / 1 yellow for Gifu

Cerezo took climbed to 3rd in the table with a narrow 1-0 home against Gifu. In spite of the win, Cerezo didn't play their best match of lately, and were somewhat lucky to turn out the winning team. Cerezo's attacking play looked awful for most of the match, and the connection between the midfielders and the two strikers were non-existent.

Cerezo's goal came after only 12 minutes, after a quick throw-in found Sakemoto all clear, and the winger tok his chance with a well-placed shot. 1-0. But that was about it, and the first half contained very few chances or both teams.

For Cerezo's sake, very little worked this match, and many of the profiles had lacklustre performances. Kagawa,who's usually the most creative player of Cerezo, didn't succeed with any of his dribblings or passes, and played his worst match for a long long time. Ryuhei Niwa, who stepped in for the injured Omata was even worse, but Niwa isn't exactly match-fit so he has an excuse there.

Gifu played some positive football, especially in the second half, but never really managed to threated Aizawa in the Cerezo goal. But they weren't any worse than the home team, and a point for Gifu could have been justified. Cerezo changed to a 4-5-1 formation with 3 volantes at the end to preserve their lead, which shows they feared Gifu. Cerezo managed only 5 shots on goal this match ( to Gifu's 8), and Culpi stated last week that if Careca doesn't start to perform soon, he might let one of the other strikers start. Even the usually so steady Furuhashi struggled, but a win is a win, and after 5 rounds Cerezo currently holds 3rd, which is not too bad.

Friday, March 28, 2008

R4 - Match Reports J2

From Nagai Stadium

Been a bit busy lately, so this round I post the Cerezo report together with the other ones. Great win btw!

Cerezo Osaka Vegalta Sendai 2-1
C: Ale 13, Germano 82’V: Nakashima 71’

After two successive losses Cerezo finally got back on winning track, with a nice 2-1 over promotion-rival Vegalta at home. It was a tough match, and especially Vegalta looked aggressive already from the start. That resulted in some bookings for the away side, and a couple if injuries for Cerezo. Most of them were minor knocks, but unfortunately for their new right back Omata it was worse, and he is expected to miss atleast 1 month of action now due to a nasty foul. Cerezo got off to the best start though, and took the lead after 13 minutes, with a beautiful shot from distance by the volante Ale. That was pretty much it before the break, with Cerezo having the most of the chances and most possession. The 2nd half were a bit more even, and Vegalta came to some chances as well. They finally scored in the 71st minute, yet again through Nakashima who scored in his 2nd match in a row. With little time left the home fans grew unpatient, and started showing their displeasure as it looked to go towards their 3rd match on a row without winning. 8 minutes before the final whistle Germano silented the crowd though, with yet another cracker from distance. That proved to be the winning goal, and it was a very important win for Cerezo.

FC Gifu Tokushima Vortis 2-1
G: Umeda 34’, Katayama 75’T: Doumbia 74’

Gifu won their 2nd match in a row when they hosted Tokushima last round, and have with that had a great start to their season. Tokushima on the other hand, only have 1 point from their first 4 matches which places them at the bottom of the table. However, the visitors looked better this match than earlier this season, and gave Gifu a run for the points. Perhaps that’s a sign they are going in the right direction atleast, but expect Tokushima to stay near the bottom-place. Gifu took the lead just before half-time,when Umeda found some space just outside the penaltybox, and sent away a hard, well placed shot that flew into the bottom corner. Not much happened before the break, but Gifu always looked the controlling team, and the lead was deserved. In the 2nd half, Tokushima got more into the match, and tje play shifted from side to side almost constantly. With 16 minutes left to play, the inspiring frenchman Doumbia broke loose on the flank, and equalized with a nice shot. However, Tokushima’s joy were to cut short, and on the following attack Gifu scored again.Katayama, who now have 3 goals in 4 matches, got free from his marker inside the box, and with a direct hit he fired away a looping volley-shot that flew into the far top-corner. The fans were ecstatic, and surely a contender for Goal of the Month.
Not much more happened after that, and Gifu could celebrate for being 3rd in J2 after 4 rounds, which is very impressive considering the club’s small budget and short history.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima Mito Hollyhock 2-2
S: Kubo 68’, Moriwaki 90’M: Nishino 56, Akahoshi 80’

Sanfrecce vs Mito was a thriller of match, that included 3 sending offs, a goal from a PK, and a last-second equalizer. Sanfrecce’s winning streak were put to an end by an inspiring and once again very impressive Mito side, who for the 4th time in a row met a promotion-candidate. Alot of things went Mito’s way this match, and at the end of an even first half where none of the teams managed to score, Sanfrecce got winger Takahagi sent off. When Stoyanov also received marching order in the 56th minute, and Mito were awarded a PK for his foul, things looked really good for the visitors, who took the lead from the following penalty through Nishino.With 11 against 9, most people thought Mito would cruise in to their 2nd win in a row, but against the play Tatsuhiko Kubo scored his first ever goal for Sanfrecce 12 minutes after the opening goal. Mito once again got up front when former Urawa starlet Akahoshi scored with 10 minutes, but unfortunately for Mito, and very luckily for Sanfrecce, Moriwaki scored with what was the last kick on the ball in injury-time.Right after Akahoshi’s goal Mito got Suzuki sent off, but they still were a man up. A devastating blow for Mito, who matched Sanfrecce when they were 11 vs 11, and were by far the best team after the sending offs. Mito had 15 shots to Sanfrecces 7.

Ventforet Kofu Avispa Fukuoka 2-2
V:Josimar 1’, Onishi 72’A:Okubo 4’, Talay 62’

Very surprisingly, Venforet are still without a win after 4 played matches, and they only look a shadow of the team that on occasions were sparkling in J1 last season. A very disappointing start to their season, but against Avispa they atleast managed to come up with some inspiring attacking football, and scored 2 goals along the way. The match started off with a boom, and after 4 minutes both teams had gotten on the scoring sheet. First Josimar gave the home team the lead with Ventforet’s first surge forward of the match, and just 3 minutes later Okubo equalized for the visitors. Alot were on stake here, as Avispa as well were in need of a good result, after their loss last round, and both teams looked aggressive which caused alot of bookings and warnings in the opening half. Avispa were still without 2 of their australians, but the 3rd, Talay, have already made his mark in Fukuoka, and scored his 2nd goal for the club midway through the 2nd half. Talay played a good match, but could easily have scored one more goal.However, just minutes later Onishi scored his first goal of the season for the home team, and the match ended a tie. I guess Avispa can be least happy with that, as they were marginally the better team and had the best chances.

Ehime FC Thespa Kusatsu 1-2
E: Wakabayashi 1’T: Fujii 49’, Ujihara 59’

After Ehime’s impressive 3-0 win away at Tokushima last round, most people expected them to run over the equally as poor Thespa at home this match, but Thespa proved a much fiercer task then Tokushima. Ehime got off to a great start though, and scored within the first minute through Wakabayashi, who’s had a great start to his campaign. Ehime continued to press Thespa back into their half and ran the same strategy that they beat Tokushima with. Despite plenty of chances to double their lead, Thespa ran out the storm and by half-time it was only 1-0 to the hosts. It seems Thespa’s coach gave his players a real pep-talk at half-time, cause after the break the visitors looked a totally different team, and took more and more over the match. A quick goal by Fujii were followed by another one from FW Ujihara.Ujihara’s goal came after an error in the Ehime defence, and the finish were clinical with no chance for the keeper to save it. So suddenly Thespa were in the lead,and now Ehime had to play catch-up. Ehime had a few chances to equalize after that, but despite having most of the chances they had to see Thespa steal all the points in what was their first win of the season.

Roasso Kumamoto Shonan Bellmare 0-2

S: Tamura 49’, Ishihara 62’

After a disappointing 0-2 loss at home vs Sanfrecce last round, Shonan bounced back with a nice 2-0 win away at Roasso.Roasso had been showing some inspiring football in their previous matches, but didn’t look too good here and lost deservedly. Shonan took control right from the start, but Roasso defended well the first half and by half-time it was still deadlocked at 0-0.Roasso didn’t have a single shot on goal before the break, which gives a picture of how one-sided it was.Just 4 minutes into the 2nd half Shonan finally managed to score though, through MF Tamura who scored with a shot from distance. Midway through the half Ishihara doubled the lead, but really, the win should have been much bigger. Only poor finishing hindered more goals. Sanfrecce had a total of 17 shots while Roasso had 5.

Yokohama FC Sagan Tosu 0-0
Sagan were together with Sanfrecce the only team with a perfect record, and were looking to win their 3rd match in a row away against Yokohama. Yokohama were also unbeaten, but drew their last match. Sagan were by far the best team, and despite having only a total of 9 shots this match they could have scored both 3 and 4 goals. Yokohama looked poor, especially in attack, and Anderson who looked so good in the first few matches didn’t create a thing this match. Sagan won both against Montedio and Cerezo despite being outplayed, and when they finally managed to control the match they only got a draw.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

R4 - Cerezo Osaka - Vegalta Sendai preview

Cerezo in white

Cerezo Osaka Vegalta Sendai

Vegalta have already met 2 of the promotion contenders, and meet here the 3rd in only their 4th game. A tough start in other words, and they meet a home team here that’s determined to raise their game after 2 disappointing results. Cerezo played a good match against Sagan on thursday though, and were unlucky not to win.Both teams are injury-free, and will field their strongest lineups here.

Their head to head record is pretty even with 3-0-3 on all previous matches and 11-11 in goal difference. Last season though, Vegalta won 3 out of 4 matches.
Cerezo is a typical strong home team, but surprisingly lost against Montedio a week ago. On the last 6 they got 3-2-1. Vegalta got 3-1-2 on their last 6 away, and were the 2nd best away team last season. So form and history-wise it’s hard to tell who’s got the edge.

Vegalta have been solid at the back so far this season, but not so good up front. Cerezo haven’t impressed that much, and their new signing Careca seems to be struggling to adapt to Cerezo’s style of football. Against Sagan he looked a bit misplaced at times, as well as showing bad ball-handling for the most of the match. Perhaps it would be better to use one of Cerezo’s other interesting strikers, but for now Culpi choose to have faith in his brazilian compatriot.

Cerezo looks the better side among them this season, especially since Vegalta has choosen to go all-japanese, and plays without foreigners. It’s a very open match, but my bet would go for a narrow home win, and I doubt we’ll see that many goals, with Vegalta playing defensively and Cerezo struggling to make their strikers work together.

Friday, March 21, 2008

J2 - round 3 Match Reports

Mito Hollyhock Ventforet Kofu 1-0
M:Arata 84’

Ventforet’s horrible start to the season continued as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat away at minnows Mito. Mito on the other hand showed good spirit and come up with some play both against Avispa and Cerezo in the first 2 matches, and continued with that here. The difference however is that in this match they got paid for their efforts, and a late goal by the young FW Arata secured the win for the home team. The first professional goal ever for Arata came after Biju sent him free with a nice pass, and the striker made no mistake alone with the Kofu keeper. The weather was awful this match, which not only led in very few people attending the match, but also a soaked pitch that made any ground-passing play almost impossible. Therefore both teams opted for the long-pass style instead, which seemed to fit Kofu worst, as Mito did a better job making the switch. All in all a deserved home win, and Mito seems alot stronger than predicted this season, while Kofu’s problems mainly seem to lie in attack, as predicted.

Tokushima Vortis Ehime FC 0-3
E: Akai 8’,Wakabayashi 9’, Tanaka 84’

The Shikoku derby turned out to be a very one-sided one, especially in terms of goals.
Ehime turned in a great performance here, and has now 2 wins in their first 3 matches, which is great considering Ehime’s pre-season prospects. Ehime took Tokushima by surprise after kick-off, and scored 2 goals within the first 10 minutes. First, Akai reached the ball after a corner, then Wakabayashi headed home a cross from the left side, beating 2 Tokushima defenders in the air. With a 2 goal lead, Ehime were smart to slow things down a bit, and focused more on denying Tokushima any goals. For Tokushima, things got a little better when they made a substitution in the 28th minute, replacing the out-of-form Da Silva with the much more attacking-oriented Kataoka. Kataoka came up with some nice contributions, but Tokushima never really got near scoring. With 6 minutes left, Tanaka killed the game off surely with Ehime’s 3rd goal, and Ehime proved very efficient this game, scoring 3 goals out of 9 chances. Tokushima had 11 shots on goal, but Ehime’s win never looked threatened.

Shonan Bellmare Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-2
SH: Morisaki 21’, Makino 77’
Sanfrecce took their 3rd win in a row, and has with that gotten off to a great start this season. 7-0 in goal difference tells they are being rock-solid at the back, and also quite good at scoring goals so far. This match as well was affected by a rain-soaked pitch, and both teams had to stick to a more simpler style of football. Shonan looked strong the first 10-20 minutes, but that was about it, ans Sanfrecce took more and more over as the game wore on. In the 21st minute Morisaki received a free-kick right outside the box, and the midfielder took it himself with a well-placed kick right into the top corner.
Sanfrecce stepped down a little after that, but always looked to be the team in control, and the few chances we saw came for the away team. The 2nd goal was a real cracker, as Tomoaki Makino scored from a corner-kick with a stunning bicycle-kick that flew past the goalkeeper. All in all a deserved away win, as Sanfrecce outshot Shonan 14-6. Shonan on their side, hasn’t had a great start this season, and needs to up their game if they want to gun for top 3.

Montedio Yamagata FC Gifu 3-5
M: Toyoda 16’, Watanabe 19’, Leonardo 90’
G: Takagi 12’,47’,Katayama 27’,45’, Kan 84’

Gifu produced their first ever J.League win with an amazing 5-3 victory away against in-form Montedio. Few would have predicted Montedio to struggle so much against Gifu at home, after the nice 3-1 win in Osaka last round.
Gifu got off to the best start, as left-winger Takahgi opened his scoring account with a shot that went off a Montedio player. The home team replied almost immediately with their topscorer Toyoda ( on loan from Nagoya), and just minutes later, DM Takumi Watanabe made it 2-1 for Montedio. Most would have thought Montedio would run away with it then, but midway through the 1st half MOM Katayama made it 2-2 with a nice header, and added another just before the break to make it 2-3. Just2 minutes after the break, Gifu scored again, as Takagi put in his second of the match. Both teams scored a goal each in the dying minutes, and with only 8 shots for the home team and 11 for the guests, the crowd got to see 2 very efficient teams this afternoon.

Vegalta Sendai Avispa Fukuoka 1-0
V: Nakashima 14’

The biggest clas of the round took place in Sendai, in front of over 15 000 fans. They got to see the home team take a very important win, that means they already have an advantage over one of their biggest rivals for promotion.
Vegalta took an early lead, after Nakashima were fouled inside the box. Nakashima converted the penalty himself, to enourmous cheers from the home crowd. Avispa took gradually more and more over after the goal, but failed to break down the sturdy Vegalta defence, who did a fine job defending the goal. Vegalta were overall the best team, and had the most of the chances. As expected, they didn’t manage to score that many goals though, and it became yet another low-scoring win. Avispa clearly missed a finisher up front as well, and they’re hoping Griffiths will be fit soon.

Thespa Kusatsu Yokohama FC 0-0

Thespa took their first points of the season when they met Yokohama FC at home last round. After Yokohama’s great start to the season so far, it was surprising to see them struggle this much vs one of the poorest teams in the league. Thespa actually looked the team most likely to score, with Terada having a very strong game on the wing with many dangerous crosses, as well some near-misses from Shimoda’s free-kicks.
Yokohama proved they rely heavenly on Anderson, and can almost look like a one-man attack. Anderson didn’t had a particular good day, and without him in top shape, the visitors didn’t create much. Both teams had 10 shots each.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sagan Tosu - Cerezo Osaka 1-0

S: Taniguchi 65'
Cerezo lineup:
Kakitani --> Sakemoto 65'
Y.Morishima --> Germano 76'
Cards: 2 yellow for Sagan / Germano,Ale,Haneda,Maeda,Furuhashi
Shots: 17 for Sagan / 17 for Cerezo
Attendance: 7839

Cerezo lost their 2nd consecutive game this season when they travelled to Sagan earlier today. With that they haven’t had a good start to the season, and is already 6 points behind frontrunners Sanfrecce, who’s won all their 3 opening matches.. Sagan is the only other team that got a perfect record, but they have only played two games so far.
Sagan were a bit lucky to win against Montedio in their first match, and that has to be said here as well, as Cerezo were by far the better team.

Sagan had plenty of shots, but they were all from distance and usually ended up at row Z. Despite being the home team, Sagan didn’t manage to control the game and Cerezo had the ball most of the time. Cerezo produced chance by chance, but the closest they got a scoring were a shot from Furuhashi who struck the inside of the post just before half-time.

Sagan took the lead midway through the 2nd half after a clearance from Yanagisawa ended up with the 18 year old FW Taniguchi, who took the chance and unleashed a looping shot just outside the box that dipped over Aizawa in the Cerezo goal. That was pretty much the only real chance Sagan had actually, and Cerezo pushed on even more after going one down. Cerezo played with 4 FW’s the last 10-15 minutes, but neither of the FW’s managed to find the goal, and the match ended with a somewhat undeserved home win.

So with this Sagan got a perfect record, despite being outplayed in both matches. For Cerezo’s sake, this match was a improvement performance-wise from their 2 opening matches, and seems to enter match form now. However, the bad start to their season means they already have to play catch-up, which they struggled with all through last season.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sagan Tosu - Cerezo Osaka preview

Cerezo in red

Sagan Tosu Cerezo Osaka

Sagan didn’t play last round, and will therefore be more rested than Cerezo, who fell to Montedio at home. For Sagan Fujita is still injured, and will surely be missed. WE could see it in the first match that the team missed his goalscoring abilities. For Cerezo only Hiroaki Morishima is still injured, and they will field their best possible lineup here, as Germano returns from suspension as well.

Sagan’s home form is 3-2-1, and they were one of the best home teams in J2 last season. Cerezo were good away in the latter half of last season, but are usually much stronger at home. Their away form is 2-2-2. On Sagan’s last 6 at home, they got the goal difference of 6-4, which suggest the games contains few goals. Cerezo got the upper hand among them, with 3-0-1 on all previous meetings.

Both teams will most likely be at the upper half of the table this year, but Cerezo is regarded as the strongest among them, and enters this match as small favorites. The loss in their last match weren’t good, but Cerezo werent as bad as the result suggests, and they should be able to bouncing back from that defeat here. Sagan has to play without their other main striker Kim as well, as he is on loan from Cerezo, and therefore unable to play.We should atleast manage a draw.

Cerezo Osaka - Montedio Yamagata 1-3

Nagai Stadium

Cerezo Osaka Montedio Yamagata 1-3
C: Furuhashi 30’
M: Toyoda 14, Own Goal 43’ , Kobara 63’
Cerezo lineup:
Sakemoto --> Hamada 67'
Careca --> Y.Morishima 67'
Haneda --> Yamashita 79'
Cards: Ale / 3 yellow for Montedio
Shots: Cerezo 14 - Montedio 10
Attendance: 6937

A very disappointing result for Cerezo, as Montedio beat them 3-1 away. Few would have predicted Montedio to win this, but they played a very good game and seemed to take Cerexo by surprise. Montedio’s topscorer last season Yohei Toyoda opened his 2008 account with a well-placed shot after 14 minutes, and already then the home crowd could see something weren’t right. But when Tatsuya Furuhashi equalized after half an hour most people thought Cerezo would turn the game over, and go for the win.
They had a good attempt on doing so, but the balance of play weren’t right, and when they even managed to score an own goal just before the break, things seemed to go into Montedio’s favour. Cerezo started the 2nd half quite good, and came to many chances, but failed to find the net. On a rare corner for Montedio, Shogo Kobora scored with a header to make it 1-3, which killed the game. Cerezo had the most shots though, and might have deserved atleast a draw, but overall it was a disappointing performance from Cerezo ( which the game at Mito last round also were, despite winning 2-0).

Yokohama FC Shonan Bellmare 3-2
Y: Anderson 5’,52’,79’
S: Kato 64’, Mita 80’
Yokohama impressed with their 2nd win in a row when they met Shonan at home, and although two of their goals came from penalties, a win against Shonan is a good achievement.
Yokohama went off to a good start, and had the lead already after 5 minutes. Their brazilian striker Anderson has had a terrific start to the season, and scored a hattrick this match. If he continues in the same way perhaps Yokohama can aim for a top 3 finish. Anderson scored his 2nd goals right after the break, but Shonan reduced 12 minutes later. Anderson completed his hattrick from the penalty spot in the 79th minute, and most fans thought the win were assured then. However, Shonan put in a good finish and reduced just a minute later, as well as coming to several other chances as well. All in all it was a deserved win, and Yokohama looks stronger than expected.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ehime FC 3-0
S: Takahagi 23’,74’, Sato 90’

Sanfrecce took their 2nd win in a row when they met Ehime at home last round, and look already comfortably placed at the top of the table. The team has impressed with being rock-solid in defence, as well as creative and inspiring in attack, causing many chances. Despite having so many big names, it was one of the more unknown players that stood out this match, as the left winger Takahagi noted himself for two fine goals. The first one came in the middle of the opening half, and it was clear early on that Sanfrecce would win this. However, Ehime weren’t hopeless, and actually ended up outshooting the home-side 13-10. Most of their chances came in the 2nd half, but Sanfrecce withstood their pressure and sealed the win with yet another Takahagi goal before Hisato Sato scored his first of the season in injury-time.

Once again Ventforet came up with a disappointing result against inferior competition, and their start to the season has been pretty bad. First they only managed 1-1 home against Gifu, and now 0-0 also at home against Tokushima. Their biggest problem is as expected finding the net, and their forwards have had a rough time so far. Kofu created a fair amount of big chances this match, but they failed to find a way past the Tokushima GK, who had a good day between the posts. Tokushima played defensively all match, and despite having any realy chances on their own, they have to be happy with their performance a hard-earned point.
A: Kurobe 50’, Talay 74’M: Nishino 60’

Avispa kicked off their 2008 campaign with a nice 2-1 home against bottom-half strugglers Mito. Avispa didn’t play in the first round, and looked a bit cautious at first. Avispa’s biggest signing this season Joel Griffiths had to limp off after only 21 minutes with a sprain in his left joint, and alot of the edge in Avispa’s attack went with him. The game had very few chances, and we had to wait until early in the 2nd half before we saw the first goal. Teruaki Kurobe scored his first goal ever for Avispa after 50 minutes, but Mito replied just 10 minutes later, through Nishino. The big home crowd were relieved when another of the new signings Ufuk Talay broke loose and scored the winning goal 15 minutes before full time.
Avispa deserved the win, but Mito once again proved themselves as a competitive team. Avispa had 9 shots an Mito 7, and if Mito can continue their positive play, surely results will go into their favours sooner or later.

FC Gifu Vegalta Sendai 0-1
V: Own Goal 23’

As expected, Vegalta were too strong for FC Gifu, and the visitors were the best team all throughout the match. Vegalta looked very solid in defence, and the home team didn’t really have any big chances this match. As most of Vegalta’s offensive firepower is gone since last season, they look to having trouble scoring goals, and in this match it needed a Gifu player to score for them. In the 23rd minute a Gifu defender were unlucky and placed the ball in his own net. Vegalta pushed on for a 2nd goal, but despite many chances the match ended 0-1. Vegalta outshot Gifu 14-5.

Roasso Kumamoto Thespa Kusatsu 2-1
R: Takahashi 78’,79’T: Kita 63’

Roasso took their first ever win in J.League when they beat a visiting Thespa side last round.
Both teams are expected to fight at the lower half of the table, and the match was evenly played from the start on. Roasso took more over in the 2nd half though, but when Thespa scored from a counter-attack in the 63rd minute most of the home fans thought the game were lost. A late brace from Takahashi sealed the win for Roasso though, as Thespa failed to reply on his 2 goals within 2 minutes late in the game. Overall a well-deserved home win for Roasso, who looks strong enough to atleast keep 3-4 teams behind them.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

J2 - round 2 results

Yokohama FC Shonan Bellmare 3-2
Y: Anderson 5’,52’,79’
S: Kato 64’, Mita 80’

Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ehime FC 3-0
S: Takahagi 23’,74’, Sato 90’

Avispa Fukuoka Mito Hollyhock 2-1
A: Kurobe 50’, Talay 74’
M: Nishino 60’

FC Gifu Vegalta Sendai 0-1
V: Own Goal 23’

Roasso Kumamoto Thespa Kusatsu 2-1
R: Takahashi 78’,79’
T: Kita 63’

Cerezo Osaka Montedio Yamagata 1-3
C: Furuhashi 30’
M: Toyoda 14, Own Goal 43’ , Kobara 63’
Match Reports to follow...

J1 - round 2 results

Tokyo Verdy Kashima Antlers 0-2
K: Marquinhos 74’, 86’

Kyoto Purple Sanga Omiya Ardija 2-1
K: Yanagisawa 46’,Watanabe 82’
O: Yoshihara 17’
JEF Utd Ichihara Shimizu S-Pulse 1-2
J: Maki 38’
S: Fujimoto 8’, Okazaki 84’

From Fukuari last season

Y: Oshima 86’,88’

Albirex Niigata FC Tokyo 2-3
A: Uchida 57’, Yano 58’
T: Emerson 6’, Cabore 8’, Konno 11’

Jubilo Iwata Gamba Osaka 3-0
J: Bandai 9’, Nishi 30’, Nakayama 90’

Vissel Kobe Kawasaki Frontale 4-1
V: Leandro 10’,54’,70’, Okubo 45’
K: Ohashi 90’
N: Johnsen 15’, Ogawa 69’

From Saitama last season ( don't mind the shirt, lol)

Oita Trinita Kashiwa Reysol 2-0
O:Kanazaki 32’, Ueslei 75’

Friday, March 14, 2008

R2 Cerezo Osaka - Montedio Yamagata Preview

Probable squads ( Cerezo in white)

Cerezo Osaka - Montedio Yamagata

For Cerezo, the 2 Morishima’s look doutbful for this match, and there’s also a question mark over Furuhashi, who just returned form injury. Furuhashi is expected to make the match squad though, but probably not as a starter. Germano were sent off last match and will be out here, and Hamada who played wing last match looks set to take his place, with Sakemoto covering for Hamada.It shouldn’t mean too much on Cerezo’s overall team strenght, as both Hamada and Sakemoto are good players. Montedio looks fully fit, and will field the same squad that narrowly lost against Sagan last round.

The teams have met 4 times, all last season, and Cerezo won 3 out of them. Montedio won the first match, but after that it was all Cerezo. At home Cerezo won both matches.
Cerezo are a very good home-team actually, and have 10-2-0 on their last 12 games on home-soil. Montedio is also better home and away, and they haven’t won away for 7 matches, with a 0-2-5 record.

Cerezo are natural favorites here, being a title contender at home vs a mid-table team. Cerezo’s home form also suggests they will get an easy time here, like last time they met Montedio when they won 3-0 in November.However, Montedio showed some decent football against Sagan and were unlucky not to win whereas Cerezo at times were outplayed by minnows Mito. Cerezo is also a bit weakened, but overall they should still be a much better side than the visitors.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

R1 Mito Hollyhock 0 - Cerezo Osaka 2

Mito Hollyhock - Cerezo Osaka 0-2
C: Kagawa (43’,85’)

Cerezo lineup:

GK: Aizawa
DF: Yanagisawa,Maeda,Haneda,Omata
MF: Hamada,Germano,Ale,Kagawa
FW: Komatsu, Careca
Ezoe --> Komatsu 45'
Shiratani --> Careca 76'
Sakemoto --> Hamada 76'

Cards: 3 yellow for Mito / Germano , Yanagisawa,Maeda

Shots: Mito 24 / Cerezo 19

Attendance: 5437

Cerezo won as expected away against Mito, but the home-team gave them a very hard time, and with a bit more luck, Mito could have won this. 2 attacking teams met here, and the game were filled with chances and exciting moments. It also had a sending-off, as Cerezo’s Germano received the red card just before half-time.

The minute before the sending off, Cerezo starlet Kagawa opened his account for the season with a neat finish alone with the Mito keeper. Kagawa were played free with a one-touch pass from Hamada, and from a narrow angle Kagawa placed the ball in the low-far corner. Before the opening goal, Mito were the best team, and the new Cerezo keeper Aizawa had to come up with a few brilliant saves as well as Mito FW Nishino missing the shot in front of a wide-open goal.
With Cerezo being up 1-0 and reduced to 10 men, they took a cautios approach to the 2nd -half, and were immediately put under a massive pressure from the Mito players. Aizawa kept being shot at, but he pulled off several fine saves this match, and seems like a very good signing. With 5 minutes to go, Kagawa were once again played free, this time by Sakemoto, and took a shot from the edge of the 16m. box that went past Honma in the Mito goal. Perhaps Honma should have saved it, but he were caught off balance.

Mito outshot cerezo 24-19, and whether or not if it was Mito that were good, or Cerezo bad this match is unclear, but perhaps many pundits have under-estimated Mito’s chances this season.
A more thorough review and another look can be found at

J2 - round 1 Match Reports

Tokushima Vortis - Yokohama FC 0-2
Y: Yamada (36’), Anderson (62’)

Yokohama got off to a fairly easy start when they visited Tokushima last round.
In a match with few chances, it was Yamada who broke the deadlock and scored Yokohama’s first goal of the season after 36 minutes. Yamada were played free by Doumbia, and his shot from distance flew past the Tokushima keeper. Tokushima had some chances for their own, but like last year, the finishing lacked accuracy. Brazilian FW Anderson doubled the lead around the hour mark with another well-placed shot, and that was pretty much it. both teams had 9 shots each, but Yokohama always looked like the team most likely to win here.

Ventforet Kofu FC - Gifu 1-1
V: Haji (38’)
G: Kojima (66’)

Ventforetfans were booing after the match vs Gifu, in which they only managed t take a point. For a team with ambitions for promotion, 1-1 home vs newly-promoted Gifu isn’t enough. Ventforet got off to a good start though, and dominated the first half. They only managed a single goal, after FW Haji headed home a corner-kick in the 38th minute. Ventforet continued to run the play in the 2nd half, but as they players grew tired Gifu got more and more into the match. Gifu substitute Kojima only needed a mere 5 minutes on the pitch to make a name for himself, and became the first Gifu player ever to score in J.League. Gifu could also have won, but squandered a huge chance in extra-time. Overall though, Ventfore has most reason to be unhappy with the result, and perhaps deserved the win. Ventforet outshot Gifu 11-3.

Thespa Kusatsu - Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-2
S: Aoyama (45’), Hirashige (71’)

Sanfrecce overcome Thespa in their opening match, with a nice 2-0 win away. Sanfrecce were for most of the time the controlling team, but that doesn’t Thespa were useless, and they had some nice chances as well. Sanfrecce took the lead on a counter-attack just before the break, after Aoyama picked up the loose ball and fired home the opening goal. The talented Aoyama had a very good game, and were a constant threat to the Thespa side from his midfield position. Another youngster also impressed this match, and FW Hirashige scored Sanfrecce’s 2nd goal, which was the striker’s first ever goal in J.League. Hirashige were chosen ahead of former NT striker Kubo, which shows that the coach has good faith in him. Thespa got Toriizuka sent off in extra-time as well, and Sanfrecce outshot Thespa 13-9 and deserved the win.

Ehime FC - Roasso Kumamoto 2-1
E: Tanaka (54’), Aono (63’)
R: Takahashi (83’)

Newly promotoed Roasso got off to a bad start to their J2 campaign, as they fell to Ehime FC away. Ehime has had good starts in all their previous seasons in J2, and continued that tradition here. Roasso had the best start though, and should have scored on atleast one of their 2 big chances the opening minutes. The match were overall evenly played, and the teams were level-pegging for most of the time. Ehime scored 2 quick goals in the second half through FW Tanaka and MF Aono, and literally took the game out of Roasso’s hands. Roasso scored a consolation goal in the 83rd minute through a Takahashi shot, but the club’s first J.League weren’t enough to salvage a point for them. Unlucky, as Roasso probably deserved atleast a draw,as they outshot Ehime 13-9.

Sagan Tosu - Montedio Yamagata 1-0
S: Iio (86’)

Sagan had to wait a long time for the winning goal when they met Montedio at home last round. The win was perhaps a bit unfair too, as Montedio somewhat surprisingly were the better team this evening.Montedio got off to a good start and had several big chances they should have taken better care of. In fact Sagan didn’t have a single chance in the first half, which is surprising when you consider Sagan to be one of the outsiders for promotion.Montedio’s strikers didn’t have the best day at work though, and squandered their chances. Sagan’s keeper Akahoshi looked revitalized compared to last season as well, and put up a string of fine saves. Sagan’s goal came just 4 minutes before full-time, through MF Iio. Iio picked up a weak clearance from the Montedio defence, and calmly placed the ball out of range for the goalkeeper. Sagan missed their greatest asset FW Fujita, and looked poor up front. They only managed 4 shots on goal while Montedio had 14.

Shonan Bellmare - Vegalta Sendai 1-0
S: Jean (74’)

In what was the top match this round, Shonan overcome a visiting Vegalta side with a narrow 1-0 win. Vegalta had the best opening, and should have been 1-0 up by half-time. Since last season, Vegalta have lost their 2 best offensive players, and it was obvious that the team lacked a natural goalscorer. Shonan didn’t look too good in offence either, and it took a defender to score. Brazilian Jean rose highest on a corner and scored with a header to give the home team the lead. A bit against the play, as the goal came in a good Vegalta period.Vegalta came with a whisker to equalize in the dying minutes, but the Shonan keeper came up with a brilliant save. Vegalta outshot Shonan 13-9.

Mito - Cerezo highlights

Highlights from last weekend's match, and by the look of it, Mito could easily have managed a draw, and perhaps even a win. So, we should be lucky to start off with a win :)

Kagawa and Culpi Interview

A nice interview first wtih Culpi, and then with MOM, Shinji Kagawa. Also, a nice view of the travelling Cerezo fans and their flags and banners.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New J.League site!

For our scandinavian readers, a new supporter' site in norwegian has been created. It's run under NorskeFans, which is similar to the swedish SvenskaFans, and all that's posted there are written by the same writer that runs this site.

This site mainly focuses on Cerezo and J2, but the norwegian site tries to cover all of J.League, as the interest for J1 is alot higher than J2, especially since there's a norwegian player in Nagoya.

J2 - round 1 results

Tokushima Vortis Yokohama FC 0-2
Y: Yamada (36’), Anderson (62’)

Ventforet Kofu FC Gifu 1-1
V: Haji (38’)
G: Kojima (66’)

Mito Hollyhock Cerezo Osaka 0-2
C: Kagawa (43’,85’)

Thespa Kusatsu Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-2
S: Aoyama (45’), Hirashige (71’)

Ehime FC Roasso Kumamoto 2-1
E: Tanaka (54’), Aono (63’)
R: Takahashi (83’)

Sagan Tosu Montedio Yamagata 1-0
S: Iio (86’)

Shonan Bellmare Vegalta Sendai 1-0
S: Jean (74’)

J1 - round 1 results

Omiya Ardija Albirex Niigata 2-0
O: Pedro Junior (25’) , Kobayashi (44’)

Kashiwa Reysol Jubilo Iwata 2-0
K: Ota (10’), Popo (82’)

Kawasaki Frontale Tokyo Verdy 1-1
K: Mori (32’)
V: Diego (89’)

Kashima Antlers Consadole Sapporo 4-0
K: Araiba (50’, 64’), Marquinhos (70’), Sasaki (89’)

Shimizu S-Pulse Oita Trinita 1-2
S: Ueslei (7’), Morishige (47’)
O: Edamura (77’)

Yokohama F Marinos Urawa Red Diamonds 1-0
Y: Komiyama (60’)

FC Tokyo Vissel Kobe 1-1
T: Konno (39’)
V: Kurihara ( 53’)

Nagoya Grampus Eight Kyoto Purple Sanga 1-1
N: Johnsen (48’)
K: Paulinho (9’)

Gamba Osaka JEF Utd Ichihara 0-0

Saturday, March 8, 2008

R1 Mito Hollyhock - Cerezo Osaka Preview

Probable lineups (Cerezo in red)

Mito Hollyhock - Cerezo Osaka

Mito’s pre-season form has been decent, but not great. The only win they picked up came against a university team. They drew Tochigi from JFL, lost 0-3 to Kashima Antlers and were unlucky to lose 2-3 vs Omiya after leading the match at half-time.
Mito have lost a few vital members since last season, and replaced them with rookie players, which will get a difficult debut against the promotion favorite.
Cerezo started playing training matches very late, and have had varied results. They drew against FC Tokyo, and then lost to a university team before demolishing two JFL teams with the scores 10-0 and 3-0. That suggests their strikers are hitting form in the right time, and the team looks better prepared this season than last year.

Match report from their last meeting: (1-0 to Mito)
So, it turned out to be Mito that ended our dream of making it back to J1 after just one season in J2. Cerezo looked surprisingly bad this match, and were at times outplayed by the home team.Now, Cerezo had some injury problems as well as a few players out with suspension, but either way they should have managed to beat the smallest team in J2.Both teams had a few chances in the first half, and the biggest fell to Mito's Kanazawa who squandered a golden opportunity. Minutes later the very ineffective Yasuhito Morishima had a similar chance of putting Cerezo in the lead, but his finish lacked precision. With that, the teams were still deadlocked by half-time.Levir Culpi decided to replace Fujimoto with Hamada at half-time, in an attempt to break down the packed Mito defence. But things didn't go Cerezo's way, and just 11 minutes into the half Kohei Nishino fires off a left-footed shot that flies past Yoshida in the Cerezo goal. Now time were ticking for Cerezo, as they suddenly were in need of 2 goals to keep their promotion hopes alive. In came Kakitani and Komatsu for Y.Morishima and Sakemoto, but it didn't help and Mito were closer 2-0 than 1-1. Mito also did a tactical change, and put in an extra defender in Yoshimoto, which helped alot to keep the Cerezo strikers at bay. In the end Mito outshot Cerezo 15-10 and deserved the win.
That win is the only time Mito has beaten Cerezo, and their overall record is 1-1-2. Mito were in pretty good form at home at the end of last season, with 3-0-3 which helped them get clear of the bottom-place. Cerezo were the 2nd best home-team in J2 last season, but struggled more away and only picked up 9 wins out of 24 matches on the road.
Mito will field a very unexperienced squad here, and on paper it should be an easy task for Cerezo. Cerezo are without their best striker Furuhashi, and will miss the newly-signed Careca as well. According to several sites, Cerezo will field Komatsu ( 11 goals last season) and the rookie Shiratani for this match. Komatsu and Shiratani have both scored lots of goals in the practice matches, but still, it’s quite surprising that Shiratani is picked before both Y.Morishima and Kakitani. Besides the FW’s, Cerezo fields their best possible line-up and they shouldn’t have any major problems overcoming Mito here. I think Cerezo will be a bit cautious though, and don’t take too many risks. Mito looks poor up front this year, and I doubt we’ll see many goals from them.

Cerezo will clinch it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My tip for the table

Table prediction J2 2008:

1. Sanfrecce Hiroshima (1st-2nd place)
2. Cerezo Osaka (1st-3rd place)
3. Vegalta Sendai (2nd-4th place)
4. Avispa Fukuoka (3rd-5th place)
5. Shonan Bellmare (4th-6th place)
6. Ventforet Kofu (5th-7th place)
7. Sagan Tosu (6th-8th place)
8. Yokohama FC (7th-9th place)
9. Montedio Yamagata (8th-9th place)
10. Roasso Kumamoto (10th-13th place)
11. Ehime FC (11th-14th place)
12 Mito Hollyhock (12th-14th place)
13. Thespa Kusatsu (12th-14th place)
14. FC Gifu (14th-15th place)
15. Tokushima Vortis (14th-15th place)

I think there’s a huge gap between top 9 and bottom 6, and I don’t see any of the teams placed 10th or lower causing trouble for the better teams ( except on the usual odd occasion). Who will end last is an open question, but my vote goes to Tokushima or Gifu.

At the top, 2 clear favorites springs to mind, and I would be surprised if Sanfrecce and Cerezo didn’t manage to finish in top 3. I rate Vegalta and Avispa almost the same, with Shonan,Ventforet and Sagan as the dark horses. Yokohama FC seems too weakened to have a chance this year.

J2 Season Preview 2008

So, with just a few days until J2 finally kicks off again it's time with a little preview on all the teams, and a look at the in's and out's and what the teams chances are in the upcoming season:
Avispa Fukuoka
Last year’s finish: 7th
Avispa have made several changes to their team ahead of this season, and coach Pierre Littbarski has mainly picked players from Australia, where he coached a few years ago. 3 australian national members has been brought in, and should strengthen Avispa atleast on the physical side. CB Mark Rudan and DM Ufuk Talay will add a new dimension to Avispa’s defensive play, which was their weakest point last season. Avispa have also made several changes up front, which is a bit alarming as Avispa had maybe the best striker pairs in J2 in 2007. The 2 brazilians Alex and Santos both have gone to greener pastures, and have been replaced by 4 new signings. The biggest of them all is the australian Joel Griffiths, who were the A.League topscorer last season with 12 goals as well as the league’s MVP. Griffiths also put his name on the scoresheet for the Australian National Team, so he’s a talented player. Also, Teruaki Kurobe, Mike Havenaar and Tetsuya Okubo have been signed, which all have J1 experience.

On paper all the signings seem good, but the biggest question is whether or not the australians will fit the pacy,technical japanese football, and whether or not the out-of-favour J1 players can blossom in J2. Littbarski have always had his main focus on attacking football, which brought him success in Sydney FC, but didn’t turn out that well in Yokohama FC, and to lesser extent Avispa Fukuoka last season.

Avispa will most likely be up there among the promotion candidates this season as well, but for now there are atleast 3-4 teams that look stronger, and the new players have to adapt quickly if Avispa wants to keep up.
Shonan Bellmare:
Last year’s finish: 6th

Shonan Bellmare haven’t done too many changes since last season, in which they ended a fine 6th. Bellmare was the surprise team of 2007, and were a part of the promotion race until the very last matches. In a bid to improve even more from the 6th place finish, Bellmare have kept most of their starters last season and brought in a few interesting players. A couple of young midfielders from Urawa Reds, and 2 new defenders with vast J.League experience seems promising, but the biggest signing is the brazilian striker Abraham Lincoln, who scored 16 goals for Avispa Fukuoka last season. Along with Jean Carlo Witte in defence, and J2’s Midfielder of the season 2007 Adiel, the 3 brazilians form the backbone of the squad.
However, the biggest concern is the team’s average age, which are among the highest in J2. Many of the players are near the end of their career, and there’s a big question mark whether or not the veterans have enough gas left in the tank for the team to make a serious bid for promotion.
Shonan’s strongest point last season were in defence, and on paper they seem even more strengthened there this season. Right-back Omata left for Cerezo, but the replacements should be able to cover for him. With the purchase of Lincoln as well Shonan looks much better in attack too, so a similar or perhaps even better position than last season seems probable.
Cerezo Osaka
Last season’s finish: 5th
After playing excellent football for most of the latter half of last season, Cerezo slipped up in the last 3-4 matches and lost out on play-off / promotion with very small margin. It was the poor start of the season which eventually led to Cerezo staying put in J2. This year Cerezo is looked upon as maybe the strongest contender for the J2 crown, as the young talents got one more year on their back, and their brazilian coach Levir Culpi have had more time to gel the team the way he wants. Only one regular from last season’s squad is gone, as their goalkeeper Yoshida left for Avispa. But he’s been replaced by former Kawasaki Frontale first choice Aizawa, which on paper seems just as good as Yoshida. A few other players have been brought in as well, with DF Hiroyuki Omata from Bellmare and FW Careca from Thespa as the 2 biggest names.Both players will most likely receive enough of playing time this season, but for now it’s unlikely if they will be considered first-team players.

The teams strength lies in midfield and attack, with many players to choose from. Cerezo got 6 strikers which all can be considered as regulars, as well as a steady midfield. Defensively it’s a bit more unclear, as the team got a fairly good starting line-up, but if a few players were to miss some games due to injury and suspensions, the team will be weakened alot as the subs does not hold the same level.

A top 3 finish seems very likely for Cerezo, and if they can keep their squad free from injuries they should be able to shut down their defence, which on spells last season looked a bit shaky. With so many gifted offensive players in the team, I’m sure we’ll see Cerezo involved in some high-scoring matches as well.
Ehime FC:
Last season's finish: 10th

Ehime’s 2nd season in J2 ended with a 10th place finish, and despite some occasional bright periods, most of Ehime’s season were below par in terms of appearance. Ehime did manage to pick up a win now and then, and although most of their points came against other lowly-placed teams, they also stood for a couple of upsets against the major teams.

The team is practically without any big stars now, and the one star they had the latter half of last season, Josimar, has returned to Ventforet Kofu. The team is mainly made up of local talents and several players brought in on one-year loans. Ahead of this season, as many as 8 players has been loaned, and Ehime’s coach got a difficult task turning a proper team out of so many new players.

Ehime seem destined to struggle in the lower half of the table this season as well, but in their short life-time they’ve done many things correct, and if they manage to continue on that great work they might start to climb up the table already this season.
Alot depends on avoiding injuries, as the team doesn’t have finances to attract proper back-up players for the regulars. With Josimar gone, they doesn’t look too good up front, and I wouldn’t expect to see that many goals coming from Ehime.

Yokohama FC:
Last year’s place: 18th (J1)

Yokohama FC had a horrible season last year, where they just managed to pick up 4 wins. That’s a big change from 2006, when they cruised through J2 and won promotion with 4-5 matches to go. The most obvious reason for the collapse is the average age of the players, which did good in J2 against mediocre teams, but when they met the younger and far more talented players in J1 they simply were outplayed. Yokohama managed to win their last match of the season though, a 1-0 win over Urawa Reds which costed Urawa the gold.

As a reason, pretty much every player in Yokohama have been replaced ahead of this season and 24 players have either jumped ship or retired. The players brought in doesn’t look that strong on first view, and only one, FW Taro Hasegawa, have experience from J1.
2 veterans have stayed put, and 40-year old Kazuyoshi Miura has his goal on spearheading the Yokohama attack this season as well. Kazu scored 3 goals last season, but is way past his prime, and will probably more often be a liability to the club than a contributor. His brother in name, Atushiro Miura, who with his 34 years is a rookie in comparasion, has also decided to stay for one more year.

Yokohama looks no better than a mid-table team this season, and I suspect their main problem will lie in attack. Kazu has alot of ”power” and influence in the club, and if he wants to play the coach will let him. The other striker Hasegawa have never been a known goalscorer either, although he got some other valuable skills. Defensively the look decent, but I would be surprised if they could mix it with the top 5 teams.

FC Gifu:
Last season’s finish: 3rd place (JFL)

Gifu is one of two newly promoted J2 teams this season, and will probably face a tough first year as a professional club. Gifu has experienced a real cinderella-story, as they’ve gained promotion 5 years in a row.They went from being a small prefectural league team who looked destined to live in the shadow of the close-by Nagoya Grampus, to becoming a professional team in record-time. The reason for their success is that a former local J1 player decided to make an effort to create a top team in Gifu, as well as willing sponsors who contributed with money already from the beginning.

It’s highly unlikely Gifu will make 6 promotions in a row, and a more realistic target is to avoid the last place finish. Gifu doesn’t really have that many players with J.League experience, and the newcomers ahead of this season doesn’t look that great. But hard-working players and a good team-morale can hide and equal the lack of abilities atleast to some extent, and Gifu could well spring a surprise. Gifu have always scored alot of goals, but J2 is alot better than JFL, and Gifu will probably have enough trouble defending.
By most pundits Gifu is looked upon as the weakest team in J2 this season, which on paper atleast isn’t far from the truth.

Mito Hollyhock:
Last season’s finish: 12th

Mito’s chances of an improved league finish looks small as the team look weakened compared to last season. Their biggest asset Shohei Ogura left for Yokohama F Marinos as well as a few other starting members. The players brought in are more or less just youth players with no J.League experience whatsoever. The club’s fans are optimistic still, with the building of a new stadium and more focus on acquiring local players.

It was very important for the club to keep Honma in goal, who reached the J2 team of the week on several occasions last season. Their brazilian playmaker Biju also stayed put,who was highly influental last season.

I doubt Mito will be able to climb many positions, but I think they’re good enough to avoid the last place finish.They’re closest rivals will probably be Ehime, Gifu and Tokushima.
Despite losing the majority of their matches last season, Mito often came up with some inspiring and fascinating football. Their problem was killing off even matches, and it happened on more than one occasion that Mito outshot their opponent, but ended up losing the game. Up front, Mito doesn’t seem much strengthened though, and they will face a hard battle finding the net this season as well. A player to watch is Takafumi Akahoshi, a young midfielder who comes from Urawa Reds ( where he reached the first team on a few occasions). He’s regarded as a big talent, and Mito fans are hopeful he will blossom in J2.
Montedio Yamagata:
Last season’s finish: 9th

Montedio achieved mixed results last season, and experienced both a long winning streak and an even longer streak without winning. The beginning was great, and around summer-time Montedio topped the table. From then on, after suffering some injuries to key players,
Montedio went from one loss to another and fell drastically on the table. Thanks to the good start, Montedio never fell further down than mid-table,but their form in the latter half of the season was abysmal, and only Tokushima Vortis had a worser record.

The team hasn’t made the biggest changes since last year, but a few players who definitely will strengthen the team has been acquired. Rychelly, a brazilian striker on loan from FC Tokyo is maybe the biggest. Rychelly received a fair share of playing time in J1 last year, but failed to find the net. The other one is MF Takuya Miyamoto from Cerezo Osaka who also came on loan. The club have also succeeded in keeping their topscorer Toyoda ( from Nagoya) for one more year on loan. Montedio have a pretty good starting line-up this year, but as the problem was last season the squad is way too small.
Therefore a similar season development as last year seems a probable situation, and Montedio will probably fare around the middle of the table. However, Montedio have brought in a new coach, Shinji Kobayashi, who almost took Cerezo to the J1 title in 2005. Kobayashi, who were sacked in 2006 due to poor results, is regarded as a smart manager, and is known for his tactical skills. Absolutely an interesting choice by Montedio. Offensively the team looks quite good actually, but as previously mentioned only one injury to a starting member in their defence is enough to crack it all up. A small improvement from last season 9th seems most probable.
Roasso Kumamoto:
Last season’s finish: 2nd (JFL)

Roasso is the 2nd newly-promoted team this season, and are expected to be the most competitive amongst them. Last season, Roasso went through JFL with few problems and secured their promotion spot with more than a month left to play. The team hasn’t brought in so many players, but one is worth mentioning. FW Satoshi Nakayama from Gamba Osaka has signed a 1-year rental contract and might turn out to be a scoop for Roasso’s sake. Nakayama has been in and out of the Gamba squad the last couple of seasons, and eventually found the competition to hard to land a regular place in the team. In J2 I think Nakayama will make a name for himself, and fire Roasso clear of the bottom.

Few players in the team has J.League experience, and although they did great in JFL this is league with much higher standard. Roasso’s main strenght will probably be their attacking play, as they have always been a high-scoring club. On this level, the jury is still out on their defensive abilities, but most likely they will struggle because there are so many teams with good attacks this season.

A finish just above the bottom-placed teams seems most probable, but with as with so many newly-promoted teams Roasso will probably have a good start but gradually fade more and more away as the season goes on.
Sagan Tosu:
Last season’s finish: 8th

Likewise Cerezo, a poor start to the 2007 season ruined the promotion hopes for Sagan last year, and in the latter half of the season they were better than both Kyoto and Consadole who both won promotion. Sagan had a great 2006 season when they just missed out on the 3rd place, and many predicted they would be just as good last season. This year Sagan have been very quiet on the transfer front, as no important players has left, and no real improvements has been added either. Kim Shin-Young, the korean striker who were on loan for half the 2007 season from Cerezo Osaka, has made his move permanent though, which means their star player Yoshihiro Fujita ( 24 goals last season) will have a good partner up front. Sagan therefore doesn’t look any less competitive than last year, but the question is whether or not the other clubs have become stronger or not.

Sagan is a team fond of attacking, and often outshoots the opponents. But despite that, they doesn’t really score that many goals, and their defensive record were among the worst last season. Sagan seems to lose their head sometimes, which a few 0-5 losses last season underlines. I think Sagan _can_ mix it with the top teams if they play at their best, but it’s more likely they’ll end up somewhere just below top 5.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Last season’s finish: 16th ( J1)

Sanfrecce, despite having a very talented squad, faced some serious problems last season which eventually led them to relegation,after losing the play-off against Kyoto Sanga.
With many current,former and most likely future national-team players in the club, few would think Sanfrecce would be relegated, and surprisingly most of their players decided to stay put in a bid to get the club back to J1 as quickly as possible. Only striker Ueslei and Yuichi Komano, the mighty impressive wingback, is worth mentioning of the players that has jumped ship. A former NT striker,Tatsuhiko Kubo has been brought in as a direct replacement for Ueslei, but Kubo has been very prone to injuries over the recent years, and seems like a gamble.

Sanfrecce are undoubtedly one of the biggest favorites for promotion, and only Cerezo looks near to match them on paper. The team look rock-solid in defence, with one of J1’s best defenders the last couple of seasons, Ilyan Stoyanov as the main asses, as well as some promising young players to cover the other positions. Midfield and attack also seems great, and it would take a total collapse for the team not to make it to atleast top 3.

NT striker Hisato Sato is their best player, and Yosuke Kashiwagi, who is by many regarded as the biggest talent in Japan today, will work as playmaker. If Kubo can keep himself injury-free, Sanfrecce should be able to hammer in goals on pretty much every J2 club. They had the worst defensive record last season in J1 though, and will probably concede some goals this season as well, especially against the top-half teams.
Thespa Kusatsu:
Last year’s finish: 11th

After finishing 12th in their two first seasons in J2, Thespa improved with an 11th place finish last year. Considering there were only 13 teams in J2 those seasons that’s not so impressive, but Thespa impressed atleast at home last season. For the last 10 home matches, Thespa had a record of 1-9-0 which despite the many draws is impressive for such a small club.
Thespa conceded most goals in all of J2 last season though, and haven’t improved their defence with a single player, so expect likewise this season. In fact, their most recognized defender Chika, which were the player with the most sending-offs last season in J2, has been released. Their best attacker Careca is also gone, as he left for J2 rival Cerezo Osaka.

Thespa look set for yet another season on the lower half of the table, and it’s unlikely they will be able to improve on last year’s 11th. In fact, Thespa might slip down a few places as well, depending on how the newly-promoted teams fare. Their careful and awaiting style of football worked well at home, but only draws won’t mean so much in the long run. Expect the other teams to score frequently on Thespa, as they look set to struggle this year.
Vegalta Sendai:
Last season’s finish: 9th

Vegalta have made it a habit of finishing just behind the top 3, and last season was no exception. Vegalta stayed in top 3 for most of the season, but messed up near the end of the season to see Kyoto steal the 3rd place from them.

Ahead of this season Vegalta has taken a somewhat unusual decision to not have any foreigners in their squad. It’s pretty surprising that such thing comes from a club like Vegalta, who’ve always had great foreigners and have tied a close bond with several clubs in Brazil, where they’ve picked up most of their players. Their best japanese player, Hiroki Bandai is gone as well. Vegalta seems to have bought smart though, and improved their squad with several players which will go directly into the starting line-up. There’s a question mark over their strikers though, which aren’t exactly well known for scoring too many goals. Nakashima, who played all 48 matches last season only managed 10 goals the entire season, and the other one looks to be Hirase, a former NT striker which have only managed 35 goals in 200 matches. If Vegalta wants to bid for promotion, you got to ask where their goals will come from then.
Defensively, Vegalta looks stronger than even though with a few promising acquirements, and the fact that Vegalta had the 2nd best defensive record last season suggest they will be among the strongest teams defensively this season as well.

Vegalta played last year some very attractive football, especially in the first half of the season when the goals poured in. We saw more low-scoring wins later in the season though, and the team looked more focused on the defensive work. I think the latter will be the case this season as well, and Vegalta will most likely be up there among the promotion candidates, but whether or not they will make it is uncertain. I doubt they are strong enough for a top two finish, but the 3rd place seems a realistic target.
Ventforet Kofu
Last year’s finish: 17th (J1)

Ventforet Kofu is a relatively small club that has done a great job with limited resources. They managed to stay in J1 for two seasons after they won promotion in 2005, and last season’s 17th place finish could have been avoided had Kofu been a bit luckier, and received a more fair treatment from the JFA officials, who on more than one occasion seemed to hold a grudge against the team.

The team have lost some of their most important players last season, and the players brought in to replace are relatively unknown players. Kofu seem to lack a real goalscorer that can tip even matches into their favour, and that will probably keep the team from finishing near the top. Their manager last season has been sacked as well, which doesn’t seem like a smart move, as he was/is regarded as one of Japan’s finests. His assistant last year has taken over his toll, which seems like abit like a gamble. However, the assistant is most likely to keep the same style of football that Kofu had so much success with in 2005 and 2006. Kofu is a very counter-attacking team that sends almost every player forward whenever it’s possible, and this tactic could very well work in J2 also.

Despite having a weaker squad this year than the one before, I rate Kofu as a possible promotion candidate. Alot has to go right for them though, and they seem more like dark horse than one of the favorites. A finish just below the top 4-5 teams feels most appropriate.
Tokushima Vortis:
Last season’s finish: 13th

Tokushima once again ended dead last in J2 for the 2nd consecutive season last year.
For long they kept both Mito and Ehime behind them, but a horrible end to the season saw them slump into last place. Since then the team has practically had a total make-over, as well as hiring a new coach. In comes Minobe, who had various results with Kyoto Sanga last year before he was fired with 1-2 months left of the season. Kyoto fans couldn’t stand him, and one have to wonder if he’s the right man to steer Tokushima away from the bottom.

11 new players, plus some juniors have been brought in, and although the club was in desperate need of some new players, none of them really sounds that good.
Most of them are reserve players that struggled to get playing time for their club ( in both J! and J2), and with so many new players arriving at the club at the same time, it will take time for Minobe to get them to work properly together.

Tokushima only managed to win 6 matches last season, and looked poor in most games. They had the occasional good game,but most of their wins came against the other lowly-placed teams. Tokushima is a hot candidate for the last-place finish this season as well, and looks to be one of the weakest team in the league, especially on the offence.