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J's Goal is currently streaming a number of old digest clips that have to do with past play-offs and promotions to the J 1st division.

2004 Play-offs Avispa Fukuoka J2 vs Kashiwa Reysol Reysol in yellow.

>>Click: 1st Leg, 1st Half video digest
>>Click: 1st Leg, 2nd Half video digest

>>Click: 2nd Leg, 1st Half video digest
>>Click: 2nd Leg, 2nd Half video digest

1998 Play-Back: There were three spots available for J2 teams to get promoted to the 1st division in this year, and five teams in the running. (The underlined teams are the three that won the tickets to the 1st division)

Avispa Fukuoka 3-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Fukuoka goes on to play --> Fukuoka 0-2/1-2 Jef Ichihara
Consadole Sapporo 1-2/0-2 Vissel Kobe
Losers of first two groups play: Avispa Fukuoka 1-0/3-0 Sapporo

>>Click: Avispa Fukuoka v Kawasaki Frontale Frontale in light blue
>>Click: Vissel Kobe v Consadole Sapporo, Both Games Consadole in dark red
>>Click: Jef Ichihara v Avispa Fukuoka, Both Games Jef in yellow
>>Click: Avispa Fukuoka v Consadole Sapporo, Both Games Consadole in dark red
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Last Rights..Rites...
kofu_prep_for_playoffs.jpgNeither wind nor rain nor sleet nor snow...

In the midst of all the glitter surrounding the J1 league championship deciding round 34, I had to delay this entry until the last minute.

I thought that Kyoto Purple Sanga (who were far and away the strongest team in the J2 this season and are already prepping for their move to the 1st division) would give Ventforet Kofu too much trouble in the last game, but it was Avispa Fukuoka who gave Vegalta Sendai the problems.

J2 Round 44:
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Vegalta Sendai
Kyoto Purple Sanga 1-2 Ventforet Kofu

Because Sendai and Kofu were only 1 point apart, the win for Kofu allowed them through to the play-offs against Kashiwa Reysol.

The photo on the left is of the Kofu team practicing on Sunday in the snow (and yes, they did have a snow ball fight afterwards!). With only about 500 million yen for their annual budget (one sixth that of Kashiwa Reysol), Kofu are hardly a glam team. Even on this day, the players drove to this separate practice grounds in their own cars an hour away, and without lockerrooms or showers available were seen changing out in the open after practice before appearing before the reporters for comments. With no proper clubhouse or practice grounds to call their own until the spring of 2007 (when it is expected the Showamachi clubhouse and grass and articifial grounds will be completed), they have been making the rounds of about ten locations to make do.

But as is the flavor (and challenge) of locally supported football in Japan, the players seem to take this in stride, even taking pride in the creative ways that they have dealt with disadvantages. Local businesses like barbershops cut players' hair for free, and hotspring inns give out free vouchers to show their support. (O/T: One player at Kofu, midfielder Nasu, actually used to play for the Japan national futsal team, and entered the club in 2002.)

Thirty seven years ago, this club met with then Hitachi (former Kashiwa Reysol) to battle for the promotion to the Japan League. They lost both games. And, now, they have this opportunity to play in the top of the top in Japan -- two games against that same opponent, and the first game was on the exact same day December 7, no less.

Kofu normally play a 4-3-3 attacking formation, and boast the 2nd most goals gotten in the 2nd division.

kashiwa_pre_playoffs.jpgThe general mood at Kofu seems to be that of looking forward to the battle, and reports depict the players as relaxed and unaffected. At Kashiwa, however, the mood is entirely the opposite. With several key players unavailable, even the backdrop of Mount Fuji looking benignly down at the practice grounds did not seem to bring much of a relaxed mood to the group. The media was shut out of yesterday's final practice (see photo).

Ace striker Tamada is out with his leg fracture, and captain Myojin though included in the group to travel to Kofu, will most probably be kept off the starting list due to ankle pain.

Still Kashiwa are heads above on experience, and they are not only experienced with going up against the J1 clubs but also with the playoffs. Last year they were in this same situation, and were able to retain their 1st division position against Avispa Fukuoka. I am curious to see what kind of game Reysol will put on for this first leg away game -- whether they will go forward or concentrate on defense more to wait until the second leg.

But if Kofu take it, oh what a coup that would be!

Kick-off will be 7 pm Japan time Tonight (Wednesday).
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