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Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Meanwhile...
Japan touch down in Brisbane

June9AirportTokyo.jpgJune9AirportHonda.jpg


Australia coach Osieck's irritation at the relatively disadvantageous scheduling of these final qualifying games for the Socceroos is not entirely unreasonable as Japan (the away team) arrived in Brisbane before their hosts did. Australia drew 0-0 against Oman at Manama on Friday, and according to reports the temperature climbed as high as 41 degrees during the game.

The Japan squad was met at the airport on the 9th by many local fans (there are a lot of Japanese people living in Australia), and the players took a few minutes to take pics and give autographs. The flight they flew was a chartered one, the first under Zaccheroni.

It's interesting to see that the Aussie squad lists about 5 players who currently play in the J-league. And of course, their coach has experience with Urawa Reds for two seasons.

Another two converted to "European" in Zaccheroni roster

Kiyotake's imminent move to Nurnberg will move him into the "European" category of the squad listings.

This week German papers reported talks were almost complete for Hiroki Sakai's transfer to Hannover.

Both Kiyotake and H.Sakai are currently with the National team for the June 12 game against Australia.

In addition, 2nd division Bochum is said to be reaching agreement with Frankfurt for Japanese Takashi Inui (the one they call "little Kagawa").

Bayern's Usami will be playing at Hoffenheim next season. He made a little splash at Toulon last month, but if he gets called for the Olympic squad it's a really great place to show his stuff in the international spotlight. That is, if he can really keep his condition up. He's in Hawaii now for personal training and relaxation.

So...uhhh...how many are in Germany now? Can't keep track anymore.

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News from Europe
Celtic Season on Coast

Celtic 1-1 Hibernian

It was a rather frustrating afternoon for Celtic in front of home crowds this Sunday. The official League championship celebrations were scheduled for right after the game so a convincing victory was the order of the day, but though the green and white striped jerseys were skating around the pitch with some wonderful passwork and more than enough chances, all they could come up with was the one equalizer. Shunsuke Nakamura created several chances with free kicks and through passes, but the usually finish-strong Celtic lacked that minute difference in front of goal. >>Right-click download game highlights

Celtic 1-3 Coventry (Friendly)

Manager Strachan was pretty disgusted with his bunch after this friendly game that took place last week. He started the same bunch of regulars that played in the win against Kilmarnock last weekend, but after the first half it became obvious that focus, motivation, whatever it was, wasn't there. The only shining point of the game was an early goal by Shunsuke Nakamura -- an awesome long shot. For highlights of the game, >>click here to launch stream.

How 'Bout Two in One?

Now that the season is essentially over in Scotland, the media of course are interested in what Shunsuke will do next. I mentioned last week that the club has made comments about wanting him to stay, but of course there have been offers from Spain. In the midst of all that speculation, Nakamura mentioned that it would be nice to have another Japanese on the team, and Shinji Ono's name came up. Ono's agent has confirmed that Celtic have contacted Ono about it, but nothing concrete yet. Ono at Celtic? Hmm. I was slightly worried but excited about Nakamura embarking into Scottish waters last year, but Ono...no way. I just don't see it. He doesn't have the speed, the physical or the dribbling, and seeing what I saw of Celtic this season, I really don't think Ono would be much of an asset there except in his forward feeds. >>Click to read Evening Times article. Of course, things can change and who knows what things will be like by the summer... There is also mention in the article above that Celtic are also considering Takashi Fukunishi.

Takayuki's Goal

A very short clip of Takayuki Suzuki's two goals in last week's Cup game: >>Right-click to download

Suzuki watched from the bench in this weekend's game against Habitfarm Javor. Red Star won 2-1 after being 0-1 behind.

Dai's Back

After having to sit out the past couple weeks due to an injury to his left ankle, Daisuke Matsui was back in the starting team against Monaco this weekend. The game ended 0-0.

From what I saw of this game, he did not look bad -- made sure to insert at least one trick play, and even had a couple really good opportunities for a goal; one a jumping header at the left post, and another when he got past the defense line on the left to chest trap and shoot. But both balls lacked speed and went at the 'keeper for an easy catch.
Sota Turns It Around
After 13 games, Sota Hirayama finally stepped up with a crucial equalizer. In this game against NAC, Sota started for the first time in four games. Heracles was trailing 2-1 in the second half when Sota came through with a header at 55 minutes. A cross from the right hit the back of Hirayama's head/neck as he jostled inside the box. Heracles were then able to score two more, ending the initially losing game with a 4-2 victory. This is Sota's 8th goal in the season.
Suzuki Scores Two
Radnicki Nis 0-5 Red Star

Takayuki Suzuki started for the first time at his new Serbia & Montenegro club Red Star Belgrade in yesterday's domestic Cup semi-final against Radnicki Nis (2nd division team where Red Star Prez Stojković got his career start as a pro footballer). Suzuki played the entire 90 mins, position as a right midfielder.

Takayuki SuzukiTakayuki got his first start mostly because the club was resting some of their regular players. Though the opportunity may have come partly from circumstance, he pulled off a solid performance, scoring two goals and creating a number of other good scoring opportunities.

The game started off with an enthusiastic attack from the opponents, but Red Star were superior, and after the ten minute mark were dominating the game. At 13 minutes, a free kick to a Žigić header gave Belgrade their first goal of the day and from then on it was Red Star's game. 21 minutes, Suzuki was on the left with the ball and sent in a left footed cross to center where Purović was waiting but his shot lacked speed and drizzled outside the post right.

In the 26th minute, a Mudrinić long feed from the center circle landed just under Suzuki's feet as he ran into the box. Suzuki took the shot quickly with his right for goal number two. Suzuki was involved in a couple more good plays, one of which saw him faking out the defense on the right side to send in a cross that was shot off by Žigić, but the ball was deflected by a defender.

Red Star continued to assert their dominace, getting two more goals within the first half. In the second half, their focus was intact, and after Purović scored for the fourth goal, it was Suzuki for the fifth. It was 80 minutes, as Perović kept the ball on the left, Suzuki slipped through the defense and indicated to his teammate where he wanted the ball. The goalie came out in response to the low early cross from Perović, but Suzuki got to the ball just before the goalie, trapped quickly with his right to sget past the goalie. He took the shot with his left as two defenders tried to squeeze him off the ball. 5-0.
Catch-up on Europe
As Simple as Getting a Goal

Hamburg SV 2-0 Borussia MG

The way Hamburg celebrate a victory after the final whistle blows, especially at home, is the one refreshing thing about the team. (Personally, no offense to Hamburg fans, I don't think their football is particularly good or fun to watch.) But that bopping up and down in a circle after the game, the way the mascot (a dopey looking blue dragon) joins in, the way a player or two does the can-can inside the circle, the line performance in front of the supporter section, the way the supporters are invited into their merriment -- that's fun to watch.

But this weekend, after Naohiro Takahara got his first goal of the season, it was truly good to watch. After eight long long months of physical and psychological...what? limbo? constipation? Takahara finally got his goal. And when Barbarez slung Takahara over his shoulder to hang him upside down along his back and jump up and down, it was reassuring to see that Takahara has at least some support among his teammates, people who can be happy for him.

This was yet another entrance in the last ten minutes of the game -- Takahara has played in 18 games, 5 of which he has only had 10 minutes or less to play. In injury time, he lightly controlled the trap off a fast through pass from Trochowski while on the run, and flicked the ball to avoid the oncoming goalie's body to bounce into an empty goal. Though the local German papers had diagnosed his troubles as a panic-related weakness in front of goal, at least with this goal he proved it isn't necessarily always true.

Hamburg of course are just universally in high spirits because they are creeping closer to first place Bayern, now with only a 4 point difference. For Takahara, the important thing is to try and get as much time to play, and of course get goals. His position on the National Team I can almost predict is secure, so it's more a matter of how he can prepare himself for June.

Some of the Thunder

Celtic 1-0 Hearts

The win over second placed Hearts at home was a perfect way to get the league championships. Celtic fans have been waiting for this moment all season, and the club's wide lead in points after Rangers sort of fell apart meant the expectations for an early securing of the title were extremely high.

The game itself was not great football; but it was certainly a fight. It was the first time a network tv station (terrestrial freely broadcast channel) showed a Celtic game (albeit it was like four in the morning), and I would have liked the game to contain attractive football to show Celtic's fluidity and speed of their passing style to the people watching a Celtic game for the first time. But it was completely another game.

Shunsuke Nakamura tried to settle the game down but it was just not going to happen, and he looked less and less relevant as the minutes ticked by. Luckily for Celtic, they got an early goal in the first half from Hartson. Nakamura was substituted out early (though disappointing, I agreed this was the best choice), and Celtic ended the game with arms in the air and celebrations.

Celtic 4-1 Kilmarnock

Now with the league title firmly in their arms so early, the rest of the season would be about entertaining the fans and maintaining a performance worthy of champions. So against Kilmarnock in the following round, it was important for Celtic to do these things as well as experimenting with new ideas on attack, being more creative.

Shunsuke Nakamura was terribly disappointed after the Hearts game that he had been so ineffective, and it was important for him to reassert his value in the team. So his two goals against Kilmarnock were very nice follow-throughs after the dissatisfaction he expressed in the previous game.

The first goal was a Nakamura free kick from the right side of the box: >>right-click download video clip As perfect as you can hope for.

The second goal was a persistent and creative team effort that involved probably half the team as it ended with a Maloney through pass to Dublin who heel-tapped it square for Nakamura to pick up. Shunsuke's first touch looked like it would be a shot, so a defender slid in front to block, but Shunsuke's left foot tapped it right to adjust once again and from there he took his shot not to the wider right of goalie but to the left side. The whole sequence was really lovely. >>right click download for goal clip Shunsuke was also involved in the 2-0 goal when he one-touched to allow Maloney through for a cross to Hartson for goal. Though the scoreline looks like Celtic overwhelmed Kilmarnock, it was actually a pretty iffy game for Celtic, with several great passing sequences and opportunities for the Kilmarnock side and some awful errors from Celtic's defense.

There has been some speculation in the press about whether Nakamura will remain at Celtic for another season or not. The Celtic suits have said that they consider Nakamura a crucial part of Celtic, that he has already "become a legend" and that they would do everything they could to make him stay, no matter what kind of offer comes to them from other clubs. Nakamura seems to have found a team that appreciates his style, but the likelihood is that he will want to make his dreams of playing in the Spanish league come true while he is still relatively young enough to play like he wants to. Right now rumors are that three or four Spanish clubs are keen, but as we have seen in past seasons with various players, it's not always as easy as one player's dreams. And just because he goes to a Spanish club does not mean that club is the right fit for him. And of course at Celtic there is the lure of the Champions League and the knowledge that boss Strachan is eager to play a fluid stylish game. The only problem is that though Celtic are obviously a solid team with a champions mentality, the opponents hold less in appeal. In Spain, Nakamura may end up in a relatively weaker team, but he is also keen to play among opponents that reflect some of his ideals style-wise.

This season at Celtic has been I think valuable for Nakamura. Being at a strong club among many internationals, there has been a lot of competition within the team. Nakamura has had to fight to win starting position, and that forced him to become flexible in the way he can contribute to the team, more rounded.

Hide's Future

People love speculating about Hidetoshi Nakata's future. Last week gossipers dished on Nakata's comment in which he mentioned this being his "last World Cup" and his plans for his post-football life. More currently, the problem is at Bolton, where he has not been playing regularly (I read somewhere that he has played 24 minutes total in the past 6 games), and last week was left off the team roster altogether for the away game against Liverpool - in local press read as an indication of how each player ranks in the manager's mind. Instead, Hide voluntarily went to the reserve league to play a game there in order to maintain fitness. Bolton seem to be 99% uninterested in keeping Nakata for next season.

Manager Allardyce stated that he will make no exception and that no player will be allowed to leave the team early to join the national team training ahead of the World Cup.
Weekend in Europe
News and gossip about our players in Europe.

Celtic Home Stretch
Livingston 0-2 Celtic

It is a relief to see Shunsuke Nakamura starting for the team again after a shaky past month. He played his full game in weeks in the CIS Insurance Cup, then started against Inverness (marking 1 assist), and yesterday against Livingston (one assist). Now Celtic are in a position to raise the league trophy with 6 games still remaining. If they win the next game against 2nd placed Hearts, they will have increased the gap to 20 points. So the upcoming Hearts game will be It. (And finally, finally, they will broadcast a Celtic game on Japanese network tv.)

Shunsuke's performance seems to be getting back to norm. True, Livingston are at the bottom of the table, but from what I saw he created good rhythm in the midfield dispersing passes well, and along with Maloney and Zurawski found some good touchwork.

His assist was not the prettiest one he's marked, but a quick-reflex featherlight touch on the ball that slightly redirected it to avoid the defender's foot and go through a the legs to reach Zurawski for goal number one. After the game, Nakamura said that as he reached for the ball that came to him from lefy (Maloney), he realized he wouldn't get enough foot on it, so instead toed it over. He said he was glad he didn't mess it up, and the ball went smoothly thru.

As you know, Shunsuke has never won a league title; at Yokohama he won the Stage title, but not the League. And at Reggina his team was mostly struggling to avoid relegation, so psychologically this must be a refreshing position to be in for him. The 10 days waiting period that exist between this last Livingston game and the deciding Hearts game is rather long though -- will it be an advantage or will it mess with the team's momentum?

Not Enough for UEFA?
Le Mans 1-1 Marseille
Overseas Players Catch-Up
A mish mash of catching up to do for our players in Europe. I'll get started with some of them now -- though if you have news about any of the others, please leave a comment. It's hard for me to keep up with everything... and I would expect some of you have a better access to some of the leagues!

Sota Hirayama Striking a Sheepish PoseSota's First (and Last?!) Day as Model

Nope, never want to see this pose again!! -- Sota Hirayama is stretching his wings... as a runway model? I'm not sure whether it's for charity or a favor for a friend of the club, or just fun PR, but I guess the team got roped into it somehow. >>Click to see photos at sotahirayama.nl

In football, Sota hasn't been scoring and has been on and off the starting roster. But I don't think he's been playing poorly -- we've seen scenes where he has shown good control, strength, technique, height and a clear visualization of the shot. I guess really he just needs to score...

At the club website, where they are doing a poll of who fans think is the Best Player of the season, Sota is currently at the top. If you'd like to vote too, >>here is the site.

Celtic Nab First Title of the Season

The finals game between Celtic and Dunfermline in the CIS Insurance Cup took place on March 19. There was a lot of pressure for Celtic to win. Everyone assumed it, expected it, and with the interwining of the day's events with Celtic's tribute to Jimmy Johnstone (all the players's shorts had #7 on the back of the thigh, and after they won, every player changed jersey to Johnstone's 7) and that's a tough thing to play into. Fortunately, Celtic won without too much danger 3-0. Shunsuke Nakamura, who's appearances have been spotty throughout the past month or two, played a full
Red Star English website
For those of you eager to get more info on Serbia & Montenegro league club Red Star, and news of Takayuki Suzuki, This English site kindly translates Serbian news. They have posted an interview with Suzuki right after he arrived there.

>>FC Red Star Belgrade English news website

For Suzuki's interview, go to the News link on the left column, choose News Overview, and the article was posted 15.2.06.
Koji Heads One In
2006_02_26_fcb_yverdon_0052.jpgKoji Nakata started for the second game at his new club Swiss league's superclub FC Basel this Sunday against Yverdon.

The system used was 4-4-2, and Koji was a left midfielder, and throughout much of the game played almost like a wing. At the 7th minute, he took the first shot of the game. He continued to play ambitiously, maintaining a high position, which led to his goal at 45 minutes -- a header off a cross from the left.

>>This Swiss news site has video highlights. At the top of the page, there is a chart/list of the fixtures under the heading "Videos", find the icon on the right that corresponds to the Basel vs Yverdon game. Koji is #6.

For more pics, check out FC Basel's >>photo gallery.

Since Koji did not score during his time at Marseille, this is his first "overseas goal". And his first goal since the goal he scored against China during the 2004 Asia Cup Finals. Congrats, Koji!

He was taken off at halftime, and got a warm round of applause from the supporters.

As for how he is getting along at the club, Koji said on >>his website that he is really liking it there. The team has a very tight family atmosphere and people have been kind. Though the official language is Swiss German, many players also speak French and/or English. Because Basel pretty much outpowers all the other clubs in the league, the real juice may be in the UEFA games -- Basel are in the same group as Red Star (where Takayuki Suzuki plays), but I think Koji is not registered to play in UEFA yet.
Overseas Weekend Wrap-up
Okubo's Goal

Last week I briefly mentioned Yoshito Okubo scored his first goal of the season in Mallorca's league game against Deportivo -- I wanted to follow up with a description of the goal and video. He got his first start in seven games, and his header goal came just after the second half began. He also contributed to the second goal by playing post and allowing an open shot for his teammate. >>Click for video of goal against Deportivo

A Swiss Kiss of Life for Koji

Koji Nakata is set to sign with Swiss league's FC Basel 1893, only technicalities such as a final medical check remain before an official announcement is expected to be made. The deal will keep him there for the remainder of the season, ending in mid-May.

It has been an excruciating season for Nakata in his freshman year abroad. Having been swept into Marseille by former manager Troussier after leaving his former J club Kashima Antlers high and dry, Nakata failed to impress in his first few forays in the Ligue Un. The debut in the snow, the own-goal... and then when Troussier got the axe, Nakata was pretty much kept off the pitch; he played in only ten games, of which only 4 were in league games. In this past month, he has been relegated to playing with the youth team at Marseille, and has been actively seeking a new place to call home.

There was some talk of offers from Belgium, Israel, Ukraine, and even a possibility that Kashima would rescue him if all else failed. Koji had his heart set on staying inside Europe, and though Marseille were gung ho about giving him to Israel's Betar Jerusalem, Koji said no; and no again to an offer coming from the Ukraine league. This did not put him in good standing at Marseille, and the club by then he was forced to train on his own after being taken out of training sessions with the amateur/reserve team. So this transfer inked just days before the January window closed is a kiss of life and will mean an extension of his adventures abroad.

Having just last week lost defender Patrick Mueller in a transfer to Olympique Lyon, Basel suddenly found themselves in need of a replacement. Though Mueller plays more on the right, and Nakata specializes on the left, he flew to Spain where the team was training over the break to try out. After spending three days being tested there, Basel were still not sure and asked that Marseille allow Koji to return for a few more training sessions and some practice games. However, Marseille refused, and for a period it seemed Basel would drop their pursuit.

Basel is currently at the top of the table. Their team includes several Swiss internationals, and is a Big Club with a high quality of play. Nakata has lost a lot of play time this season, and the most important thing for him now is to gain his new teammates' trust and play in as many games as possible.

>>Visit FC Basel website

Celtic 3-3 Dundee U

Shunsuke Nakamura's fever/virus has been nagging him for a couple weeks now, but despite that (and the fact that he performed poorly in last week's match with Motherwell) he was on the pitch at the start of this game. A signature freekick from Nakamura on the right of the box towards goal met nicely with Hartson's head for a lead at 9 minutes. Celtic were able to widen the lead 3-1 by the time Shunsuke left the pitch at 72 minutes, but then things fell apart in defense. A full three points was the minimum that supporters demanded from this encounter against the ninth placed club, but one point was all they could go home with.

These days you can tell when Nakamura is having a 100% day or not by the amount of scrappiness he can bring to his defensive contributions. From his display this day, it seemed he did not have any energy reserves to deal with areas outside of setting up plays: his free kick assist and his set up through pass for another goal, in addition to a couple other very close set piece opportunities. >>video of assist FK

Nakamura posted a message about last week's Motherwell game (rough translation): "This round was an away game at Motherwell. During practice the day before the game, the coach told me to to play on the left. I went into the game having visualized different plays, but I wasn't able to bring those visualizations to reality. My combination with left sideback Camara was bad, and I personally made a lot of errors. I did nothing for the team in terms of creating the game. After I was substituted out, the team got two more goals and we won 3-1. For me individually I was very disappointed in my performance. I hope to be able to contribute to the team's win in the next game. First I have to get healthy and gradually improve my condition."

Le Mans 1-1 Toulouse

Daisuke Matsui played the full match against the 15th placed Toulouse in his ninth consecutive start. Though he could not repeat last round's performance of two goals, he was able to contribute by assisting in the equalizer at 23 minutes. Matsui sent a cross from the right for Tulio's header. The second half's action was kept mostly in midfield with both teams trying to control, and the only real chance for Le Mans was in injury time when Fischer was denied by the bar. >>Video of Matsui assist

Hamburg SV 1-2 Nurnberg

Could it be that the curious rift between HSV manager Doll and Naohiro Takahara may be on the way to mending itself? Takahara had been trying for most of the season so far to control and downplay his frustrations about not being used. However in December Takahara was clearly beyond fed up, and commented that of all the possible outcomes to the transfer issue, the possibility of remaining at Hamburg was least likely. There was no mistaking, he wanted out.

But as Frankfurt began actively pursuing Takahara, and Takahara become more vociferous about wanting out, Doll started to make comments admitting he was in the wrong with regard to not giving Takahara an equal opportunity to prove himself on the pitch during the first half of the season. He added that the Japanese forward put in a solid performance during practices, and that he expects Taka to contribute to the team in the remaining games.

This change of tune may have been a direct result to the difficulty Hamburg was having in finding forwards to transfer in over the break. But even last week, after they were able get Ailton on rental, Doll was heard saying that even with a new forward he expected Takahara to stay.

And this weekend, Takahara got his first start since October 2, 2005. Though the setting was in his favor -- he scored two goals at Nurnberg less than a year ago and has won the three games he's played them -- the match turned out to be a frustrating one for the entire team.

Though Takahara was involved in some good chances, he could not find the much needed goal. One cross from Mahadavikia at 18 minutes gave Taka a great opportunity for a shot but the ball went straight at the keeper. Overall though he looked fit and sharp.

From the start of the game, though, Hamburg looked quite awkward. Nurnberg's pesky and persistent marking denied Doll's men any freedom to dribble or pass, and the ref was busy calling fouls and handing out cards as the ball failed to settle. HSV's passing and positioning was poor, and by the second half they gave Nurnberg the momentum to finish them off.

Hamburg does have some excuse however. New acquisition fw Ailton was okay but obviously needs to work on communication with his new mates -- he got caught too many times off sides. And De Jong, who just joined the team a day before the match, looked heavy and gave the opponents a convenient hole to exploit. Doll will need to work on bringing the team together, and soon -- how he will treat Taka in the coming months is anyone's guess. The important thing is for the "Sushi Bomber" (who thinks of these nicknames?) to get goals goals goals.

Bolton 1-0 Arsenal (FA Cup)

Hidetoshi Nakata played the full game in this upset of last season's title holder. Hide started in left midfield and switched to a more defensive position in the second half.
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上記広告は1ヶ月以上更新のないブログに表示されています。新しい記事を書くことで広告を消せます。