Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cerezo played "Kamatamarre Sanuki" (whoever that is) on wednesday, and managed to lose 1-2.
The game was separated into 4 quarters à 30 min. each, and pretty much everyone in the Cerezo squad got to play.

If one regards the team in the 1st quarter as something close to the starting line-up it doesn't look too bad. Of course, there should be room for Furuhashi as well, either as a winger or a striker. Personally I would like to see Sakemoto as well in the team, and perhaps Niwa instead of Omata as a left-back.

Not to mention the luxury problem Culpi faces upfront, with 6 strikers to choose from, which all are potential starters. Cerezo got their goal in the first quarter, through wonderboy Kagawa. Cerezo also conceded a goal that quarter, as well as another one in the 2nd.ApparentlyYasuhito Morishima had to limper off in the 3rd quarter, but let's hope his injury is not too serious.

Indeed a disappointing result and one would expect more from the favorite for this year's J2 crown. Let's just hope they will be ready for the start of the season, and that we don't get a similar situation as last year, where we had to play catch-up all season after our horrendous start.

The lineups:

1st quarter:
GK: Aizawa
DF: Yanagisawa,Maeda,Ezoe,Omata

2nd quarter:
GK: Yamamoto
DF: Yanagisawa,Maeda,Ezoe,Omata
MF: Ale,Germano,Haneda,Kagawa
FW: Komatsu,Careca

3rd quarter:
GK: Suzuki
DF: Nakayama,Sakata,Chiba,Niwa
MF: Sakemoto,Yamashita,Fujimoto,Hamada
FW: Morishima ( Shiratani) , Kakitani

4th quarter:
MF: Sakemoto,Chiba,Kurogi,Hamada
FW: Shiratani,Kakitani

Sunday, February 24, 2008

FC Tokyo - Cerezo Osaka 0-0

Cerezo were held by FC Tokyo in their first training match this season, but should overall be happy with their performance against a J1 side. The match ended 0-0, and despite the lack of match practice, Cerezo looked the most dangerous team. The new signings got their first try-out, and all of them showed some potential. Takeshi Aizawa had very little to do in the goal, as Tokyo didn't create that many chances. DF Hiroyuki Omata also had a quiet evening in his debut, but there's no doubt Omata will be important in Cerezo's bid for J1 promotion this season. With Omata being a former FC Tokyo player, it was probably a special debut for him meeting many of his former team-mates.

Our new brazilian FW Careca also started the match, but struggled as the lone striker in the first half. Since it was the first match as well, the combination play with the other players seemed a bit lacking as well. Cerezo changed to a 4-4-2 formation after the break though, and looked much sharper in the 2nd half. Especially Germano had a nice match, and "owned" the midfield.

Alot have been said about the promising Kakitani in the past, but now Cerezo got another young starlet as well. Kento Shiratani were brought in ahead of this season, and he is already an established youth-NT player. Shiratani came on in the 2nd half and looked lively, but squandered the biggest chance of the match with a loose shot.

All in all it was a good outing for Cerezo, and the most important thing now is to keep all the players injury-free and raise their match-fitness for the season opener in less than 2 weeks time.
Cerezo are regarded by most J.League fans as the biggest favorite for promotion this season ( which the current results in my poll underlines), and with that they find themselves in a different position than last year, where it was clear early in the season that Cerezo were an outsider for the top spots. Hopefully the team will cope under that pressure and manage to live up to the big expectations.

FC Tokyo - Cerezo Osaka preview

Fc Tokyo - Cerezo Osaka
This friendly is called Mizuno Cup, as both teams are being sponsored by Mizuno. Therefore, it’s a small prize money and a trophy for the winner, which along with the prestige of being the ”top” Mizuno club should make this match competitive.

FC Tokyo have played several training matches lately, but haven’t really impressed. Seongnam is a top korean side, and Reysol regarded as a dark horse for this year’s J1 trophy, so those results are not too bad. But losing against Kofu, and just managing a win against Gifu is not what you would expect.

Tokyo's latest results:
FC Tokyo 0-2 Ventforet Kofu (J2)
FC Tokyo 0-1 Seongnam Ilhwa (Korea)
FC Tokyo 2-1 FC Gifu (J2)
FC Tokyo 1-1 Kashiwa Reysol (J1)

Cerezo haven’t played any training matches so far this season, and will make their 2008 debut for this match. They’ve just completed a week-long training camp though, and should be up to shape despite lack of match-practice.

FC Tokyo is by many regarded as a relegation candidate this season, as their team has been weakened alot. Gone is their topscorer Lucas, FW Baba, GK Doi as well as former NT member Takashi Fukunishi and 2 regular defenders.. That’s pretty much the backbone of the squad gone. Now, Tokyo has brought in a couple of big names though, with the biggest being the NT player Naotake Hanyu. But I would be surprised if we saw Tokyo on the upper half of the table this season. Tokyo has changed manager as well since last year, and in comes former U-17 Japan NT coach Hiroshi Jofuku.

Cerezo is regarded as the best team in J2 this season, and big favorites for promotion to J1.
Apart from changing goalkeeper no major transfers has been made, and Cerezo’s young players will have gotten one more year on their back, which should just make them better. Since Levir Culpi took over midway through last season, Cerezo was the 2nd best team in J2 just beaten by Tokyo Verdy.

The match is played on neutral ground, in a small town situated in the middle of Tokyo and Osaka. There is a division difference between the teams, which naturally will make Tokyo the favorites here. The fact that they have much more match practice than the boys from Cerezo just underlines that. But Tokyo is a team that looks to be on their way down, while Cerezo in on the rise with an exciting squad, so it would be open. Their head to head record is 2-4-2.
For Tokyo, Captain Konno is busy with international matters, while for Cerezo Yasuhito Morishima is likewise busy with U-23 matters.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A look at the National Team - Match Reports

Japan-Chile 0-0
(Played 29/1-2008)

Japan Squad:Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Atsuto Uchida (Akira Kaji 71), Yuji Nakazawa, Yuki Abe, Yuichi Komano, Keita Suzuki, Yasuhito Endo, Kengo Nakamura (Koji Yamase 80), Satoru Yamagishi (Naotake Hanyu 57), Naohiro Takahara (Yoshito Okubo 62), Seiichiro Maki (Kisho Yano 80)

A somewhat disappointing result for Japan, who were held by Chile in a match with few chances to both teams. It was easy to see that this was Japan’s first match for a while, as many of the players looked to be out of match-practice. Overall they were the better team though, and should have won it by a couple of goals.

To start with the positive things, the defence looked rock-solid and did a good job denyng Chile any chances. Uchida had a very impressive debut in his right-back position, and Nakazawa/Abe in the middle had few problems neutralizing the Chile forwards. Komano, who once again had to play out of position ( he’s a right footed wingback who prefers to play on the right side), did as usually a good job. Komano looked very offensive this match, and apart from Okubo, Komano had more shots on goal than any other player on the pitch.

That suggests that the forwards and attacking midfielders didn’t do their job, which is pretty close to the truth. Take Takahara for example, who’s supposed to be their top-player, looked utterly poor and were effectively stopped by the young and strong Chile defenders. Seiichiro Maki, who somewhat surprisingly were choosed as the other striker, were the best among them. Maki has never been a goalscorer though, and his poor finishing skills once again let him down. Maki is a very hard-working player though, and creates chances for his teammates.

The midfield,which on paper is their strongest force, didn’t had the best of days this game and struggled against the technical chilean players. Only Keita Suzuki put on a decent display, who stopped the Chile attacks on multiple occasions. Endo, Kengo Nakamura and Yamagishi were the players that seemed most out of form, and if Okada plans to use them in the Asian WC qualifier next week, they should get their fitness up and running pretty soon. Things got a little better as Okada made some substitutions. Especially the already mentioned Okubo looked to be on fire, and only bad luck denied him a goal or 2. Okubo only played 27 minutes, but had more shots on goal than Takahara and Maki had together.

Hanyu came on for the undeniable worst player this match, Yamagishi, around the hour mark. Hanyu may not be the best technical player or the best passer, but he always gives 100% and can be happy with his contributions here. He and Yamagishi are seen as the weakest players in the squad though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Okada eventually dropped them.

All in all a poor match for Japan, but things should only get better now as the fitness gets better, and the players get out of their “off-season-mood”. For the Bosnia match, Okada mentioned he wanted to try some different players. I would guess that means Koji Yamase will finally get the chance from start, probably instead of Endo or Kengo Nakamura. Daiki Iwamasa is another player that looks set to get a chance here.

Japan - Bosnia 3-0
(Played 30/01-2008)

Japan:Nakazawa (68‘), Yamase (83’,88’)

Japan’s team: Seigo Narazaki, Atsuto Uchida, Yuji Nakazawa, Yuki Abe, Yuichi Komano, Keita Suzuki, Yasuhito Endo, Kengo Nakamura (Yasuyuki Konno 78), Yoshito Okubo (Naotake Hanyu 88), Naohiro Takahara (Ryuji Bando 82), Seiichiro Maki (Koji Yamase 34)

Japan looked poor in their first match this year against Chile, but looked much better for their exhibition match vs. Bosnia. In fact, Japan dominated the play for the entire game, and it was a big step forward from the Chilematch.

Okada made 2 changes on the team that played Chile, as he switched keeper and let Yoshito Okubo, who impressed as a substitute last match, start at the cost of the ineffective Yanagishi. That seemed like a smart move, and once again Okubo was one of the leading players for Japan.
Seiichiro Maki were injured after some 30 minutes, which led the way for another player who impressed against Chile, Koji Yamase. Yamase and Okubo combined really well, and despite that Japan’s other striker, Takahara, once again looked to lack both fitness and form, Japan’s offensive play were impressive for most of the match.

It took 68 minutes before we saw the first goal though, which came from a Yuji Nakazawa header. Bosnia pushed a bit more forward after the goal, which just opened up things even more for Japan. Koji Yamase became the biggest hero this afternoon, with 2 nice goals within 5 minutes which killed the game off.

Japan should have won by a bigger margin, but 3-0 is impressive either way.
Once again the wingbacks looked superb, and it seems Japan’s got a new superstar in 19 year old Atsuto Uchida who controlled the whole right side alone.

Japan - Thailand 4-1
(Played 6/2-2008)

Japan: Yasuhito Endo (21’)Yoshito Okubo (54') Yuji Nakazawa (66') Seiichiro Maki (89')
Thailand: Teeratep (22')

Japan’s team: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Atsuto Uchida, Yuji Nakazawa, Yuki Abe, Yuichi Komano, Keita Suzuki, Yasuhito Endo, Kengo Nakamura, Koji Yamase (Seiichiro Maki 68), Yoshito Okubo (Naotake Hanyu 87), Naohiro Takahara (Ryuji Bando 81)

In the opening match of the Asian WC-qualifier, Japan continued where they left off against Bosnia. Once again, Japan looked to be in total control, and it was clear from the beginning that Japan were the superior team here. But once again, Japan showed that they struggle to finish off games at an early stage. Instead of taking their chances, and go for the effective solutions, Japan often tries to literally walk the ball into the goal, a bit like Arsenal is so famous for. Thailand is not a bad team, so such a thing could backfire on them if Thailand had been a bit more lucky.

Japan took the lead in 20th minute from a beautiful set-piece from Yasuhito Endo, who once again proved that his free-kicks are lethal to the opponents. However, only 1 minute later Thailand equalized on their only visit into Japan’s half, as a wicked shot from distance caught Kawaguchi sleeping and flew past him. Thailand defended with all their might after their somewhat lucky equalizer, and Japan failed to break through the tight Thai-defence.

The 2nd half started pretty much in the same way as the 1st, with Japan pushing on for a goal. This time they did better, and after only 9 minutes Yoshito Okubo found the net after being played free by Koji Yamase. Thailand got a man sent off in the 64th minute, which ended any hope they had of stealing a point here. Yuji Nakazawa once again scored from a header jsut 2 minutes after, and sub Seichiro Maki got the honour of finishing the game off with a simiar header in the 89th minute.

It was pretty much the same players that stood out this match as well, with Yamase and Okubo being the main threats offensively. Yasuhito Endo deserves credit as well, who with 1 goal and 2 assists played a big part in Japan’s win.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

You are my heart

That's right. Cerezo's 2008 slogan is something unusual as " you are my heart".
Who they actually refers to I don't know, but my guesses would be either the supporters, who are the team's 12th man, or perhaps there's a deeper meaning, like Cerezo are the hearts of all the Osakajins :) Or, from a supporter's point of view, it could sound more like it's the players the slogan is referring to, as they are "heart", or the most important tool in the Cerezo machinery.
Either way, a nice slogan :)

Rumours has it Newcastle United are interested in our most valued asset, Yoichiro Kakitani. This came from a blog on the net somewhere though, so I don't really know how trustworthy it is.

Here's what the blog reported about it:

You probably never heard of this one, but a friend of mine living in Japan told me Newcastle have made a contact about Kakitani Yoichiro. Don't know the player at all, much admired in Japan, but don't they admire everything there?

Yoichiro Kakitani is 18 year old and plays for Cerezo Osaka. Hewas named Most Valuable Player in AFC U-17 Championship 2006 after he helped Japan win the tournament, scoring 4 goals. Kakitani scored two goals at 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea. Against France he scored a spectacular goal from the halfway line.

Found at