Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
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Transfers Abroad, Players Abroad, the NT, and the World Cup
nakazawa.jpgYuji Nakazawa just signed a three-year contract with his current team Yokohama F Marinos. He had been tossing and turning for the past week trying to decide whether or not to take an offer from one of the European clubs (the club of focus was Bundesliga's Dortmund). If Nakazawa had taken the offer, he would have been the first defender to go abroad from Japan.

The biggest factor in his decion-making process was the World Cup. Most would automatically assume that getting a gig with a Euro club would be the fastest way to getting on the World Cup Japan squad. That used to be the case... maybe three-four years ago. Heck, even one-two years ago. But in these past couple years, we've seen all sorts of positive and negative repercussions of playing abroad. I guess things are never that simple. continued
Click to Read the Rest of this Entry [Transfers Abroad, Players Abroad, the NT, and the World Cup]

Brazil 4 - 1 Argentina (Confed Cup Final)

I forgot to set my alarm to wake up in time to watch the Confederations Cup final between Brazil and Argentina. The game started at 3:40 am Japan time.

...... .. ... .. . . . .sigh

I'm usually so good about these things.

Anyway, what a surprising result, huh? Brazil started off the Confederations Cup looking rather tired, and Argentina's been looking so strong lately that I wondered if this would be another victory for Argentina. But I guess not. I haven't seen any clips or highlights from the game yet so I have no clue what happened. If anyone did watch it and wants to fill me in by leaving a comment, please do! The author of this blog >>click posted the celebration photos from the game.

Thus concludeth the Confed Cup for this year. The final tally is pretty unsurprising. Brazil, then Argentina, then Germany (these guys are going to be quite a force by next year), then Mexico (who were the 'surprise' team of the Cup).

Speaking of Mexico, it's sad that their accomplishment this month was tainted by the whole doping scandal. The two players in question were sent home right after the group rounds finished, but not in time to stop them from starting in the games against Japan and Brazil. Fifa has said they need to look into the whole drug-screening process again, but really what can you do?
J1 Team Previews Part 2
Here is the continuation of the J1 Team Previews that I started in this entry >>Click to Read Part I. Again, these are summary translations of previews written by J's Goal in Japanese. If you prefer to read the original Japanese version, >>Click here to go to the J's Goal Site.

Yokohama F Marinos Current Ranking 9

For two-time J-league champions, their current situation in the rankings must be far from ideal. They had a difficult schedule during the April/May period where they had to play 13 games inside 44 days (including travel abroad). And they have shown un-Marinos-like performances, like the last minute goal they allowed Vissel or the losses against Ardija and Frontale. The cause of this less than ideal performance may be linked to the lack of practice time rather than simply about fatigue. They had to go into their games without any opponent-specific preparation or analysis -- the little modifications in training that teams do to adjust against the upcoming opponent. The opponents also tend to pack the back and defend first -- but Marinos just did not have the wherewithal to think of ways to break down the opponent defense.

Marinos went to Los Angeles during this break period, where it seems they had a very fruitful and fun time. They played against MLS club LA Galaxy (won 2-0), and this game showed that the team has been evolving on both offense and defense. Most outstanding has been Dutra. When he first came to Japan, he impressed by creating the entrance-way for the Marinos offensive set-up. He was strong and stubborn on one-on-one matchups, and sent in high quality crosses. However in this season the opponents have taken high position against him and marked him with two or more players, effectively shutting him down. But during this break period he has regained his brilliance and has been able to get past multi-player marks.

The other change in Marinos is the switch from the 3-5-2 to the 4-4-2. Both sides are attacker-types, and the team will probably become much more attack-oriented. On the flip side, the risks will be greater. This new system will require the players to concentrate on communication and combinations.

The biggest concern is the forward line. Ahn is leaving, and Kubo is still unable to play properly. Sakata and Oshima will be forced to take over the full responsibilities. The other player who will be looked to for goals is Oku -- last season the number of goals he got was in the double digits. Marinos will have tough first few matchups against Kashima, Nagoya and Chiba.
Video of Supporters@Bangkok
I mentioned in this past entry >>Click following the no-spectator World Cup qualifier game against North Korea that was held in Bangkok, that a bunch of Japan supporters flew to Thailand anyway to be as close to the game as possible. A small group stood outside the gates of the stadium and got their voices heard by the players inside... and it worked.

The author of this blog >>Click here was one of them, and they have put up a video clip >>Right click and downloadof still shots and video images (there is sound). They chose the #12 Gate to chant through because of the symbolism (The 12th Player). And the end scene with the supporters inside the stadium was taken after security allowed the supporters to come inside -- the game is over, and the players are in the "Our Victory, Your Victory" t-shirts taking a group photo.
FIFA Explains Offsides
Now that we've seen the effects of the new refereeing rules watching the World Youth Championships and the Confederations Cup, we're starting to get a handle on what gets penalized and what doesn't.

The J-league referees will also be taking on these new guidelines when the league rounds start up again. I wonder how well and how quickly the players will adjust, and how strict the referees will be (particularly about non-play related infractions).

Anyway, if some of you are still confused about the whole Offsides rule, >>Click here for a Fifa presentation on the subject. After each Play ends, keep pressing the PLAY button and you can go on to the next examples.
Articles on Kawaguchi and Nakamura
Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi features in an article on the FootballAsia site >>Click here to read the article!

FIFA polls show most were sorry to see Shunsuke Nakamura leave the Confederations Cup. >>Click here for the article.
J1 Team Preview: League starts Saturday! Part 1
J's Goal just posted a very helpful summary of each team's situation going into the next leg of the league rounds. If you read Japanese, you can check it out directly >>click here. I've done a summary translation for each team below. I'll do 9 teams today and the other 9 tomorrow.

Albirex Niigata Current Ranking 15

Albirex has been showing flexibility by switching systems according to the situation. 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-4-3, 3-5-2. They have also been rotating players at a dizzying rate. The team situation was not good. They spent the pre-season in Brazil, but once the season started the heavy snowfall prevented them from properly practicing. But once they were able to settle in, they have been able to respond to coach Sorimachi's vision of a flexible team. "There are no regular starters on this team," says Sorimachi. He wants to keep competition high within the team.

One of the weaknesses is their game start -- they give up goals in the first thirty minutes of the game, and are overall unstable in the beginning. But the return of mf Kurihara during the Nabisco games helped the team keep the opponents to zero goals in two consecutive games. His presence kept the front and back group from pulling apart too much. Anderson Lima has also started to get used to the speed of the J-league. The team just lost a number of players to injury right before and during the break period. We will probably see entirely new lineups once again in the next few games.

Players to Watch: New transfer from Nagoya, Okayama has been looking better recently. He creates rhythm for the team -- coach Sorimachi said of him, "He understands football, he can figure out what the team needs." He was unable to start in the league rounds for a long while due to injuries to his neck and lower back. But when he returns, his voice on the pitch will lasso the team together. The other player to look for is K.Kaimoto who has been taken out of the starting lineup partway through the season. He played sideback before being taken out, but recently has popped back onto the starting lineup as the right side of a three-forward line and has showed good positioning.

Oita Trinita Current Ranking 12 continues
Oh No. Asia Cup Again?
asiachamp.jpgThe next Asia Cup will be held in 2007, and co-hosted by four (yes, 4) Southeast Asian countries. Now, don't get me started on the inevitable logistical/organizational problems that swim around in my mind when I contemplate this. Let's put that aside for now.

So what am I so ticked off about? Well, a couple things. One, this 4-country co-hosting idea means that 4 southeast asian countries will get an automatic entry to participate in the Asia Cup. These four countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Their current FIFA ranking are: 91, 111, 88, 94 respectively.

On the other hand, unlike the previous Asia Cup, where the current champions get to sit out of the qualifying rounds, this time they are requiring Japan to play the 6 home and away games to qualify for one of the 12 slots. The first two games will be held on February 22 and March 1 of 2006. The groups have not been decided yet.

I don't know what the resoning behind this was. Do they feel that current champions have the duty to play in the qualifying matches to create excitement and interest in the opponent countries? Or is it that giving four automatic berths to the host countries will mean an odd number for the groups and Japan needs to fill the open spot? Or do they just feel that allowing Japan to sit out of the qualifying round will give us an unfair advantage over the other Asian countries who are also trying to prepare for the World Cup but have to participate in the Asia Cup qualifiers too?

I don't know. I guess we should look on the bright side and say that this will be a chance for Zico to call up new players to the team and test them out one last time before the World Cup.
When You Can't Play Pro Anymore
I saw a really interesting segment on this weekend's NHK sports news programme, and I thought i'd share it here.

When we think "Pro Footballer", most of us think of the top -- the J top flight, the National Team. And when we thinking "retiring J-leaguer" we think of the veterans who have entertained us for over a decade and go out with flower bouquets and a standing ovation from fans. In the J-league, there are currently about 900 players. And every year about 100 players leave the pros -- and most of them are in their mid-20s.

Last year I remember a couple ex-baseball players were thrown into the spotlight when they got arrested -- the allegations dealt with selling illegal material, including porn. I think it shocked people because most of us think that pro-athletes lead these glamorous lives and get paid well. But most pros are hardly in the top rank; the income they get is not that great, and only the creme de la creme get those fat paychecks with all the zeros at the end. It sort of made me realize how short a pro's life really is on average. I had wondered if the Japanese Baseball Association had some sort of support network in place to help athletes as they returned to "civilian" life.

Three years ago the J-League created a Career Support Center. The thinking by the J-League was that not only did they need to pay attention to the care of youth and development but also attend to the needs of players as they were going out.

What does it mean to be a Pro? And what do you do when it's over? ...continues
Welcome! J1 Starts Up...
Hi All, welcome to the new site location for this blog! I hope the yellow color design doesn't bother anyone's eyes (if it does, just give a holler and I can change it). I just thought it would be a cool color combo now that we are really in summer mode. The temperature is really climbing suddenly in this past couple weeks -- this weekend some of the J2 games were held in temperatures of about 34 degrees celcius. Hot! Not as humid as it's probably going to get later on in the next couple months, but hot nonetheless.

The J1 will be starting up again this weekend, with the first games on Saturday. Here are the rankings for the J1 so far, followed by some summaries of news from a few clubs:

1 Kashima Antlers 29 pts
2 Sancrecce Hiroshima 20 pts
3 Gamba Osaka 19 pts
4 Nagoya Grampus 18 pts
5 Jubilo Iwata 18 pts
6 Urawa Reds 17 pts
7 Jef Chiba 17 pts
8 Omiya Ardija 17 pts
9 Yokohama Marinos 16 pts
10 Shimizu S-Pulse 16 pts
11 Cerezo Osaka 16 pts
12 Oita Trinita 16 pts
13 Kawasaki Frontale 14 pts
14 Tokyo Verdy 14 pts
15 Albirex Niigata 14 pts
16 FC Tokyo 11 pts
17 Kashiwa Reysol 10 pts
18 Vissel Kobe 9 pts

Kashima Antlers have a nice lead over the rest of the group, but considering they have a tendency to be weak in the heat some of the top five teams could have a chance at closing the gap. Kashima did not do well in the Nabisco, missing their two playmakers, Ogasawara and Motoyama due to NT duties. Unfortunately, Ogasawara got ill during the game against Brazil (apparently had a low grade fever and got sick during halftime) and he may not be able to join the team for a little while. continues
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