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Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Saturday news
Well somebody slap me if I ever express an interest in gambling ever again! Today, 7 games were played -- round 7, 7 games, lucky 7.... but no luck for me. I would have actually been more satisfied if I had gotten all my predictions wrong. But getting 4 out of 7 wrong. That's just so mediocre... so ordinary!

I mean, I haven't watched the Reds 1-2 Cerezo game, but wow that must have been a huge blow to Reds especially at home...and no offense, but to Cerezo... But on the other hand it shouldn't be as suprising considering how well Cerezo have been doing in recent weeks. Tulio apparently forced his way back on to the team (though I hear he's not 100% yet) but maybe they should have kept the back line the same as last week against FCTokyo (which they won without giving up any goals).

Reysol lost to Grampus 0-2 in front of about 10,000 spectators at home. Unfortunately, that was not the end to the bad news for the home team. After the game, a few Reysol supporters dodged security people and climbed the metal fencing to confront the Grampus supporters who were still milling in the stands. They were followed by about fifty others and it became a whole mess. Over ten people were injured.

I'll do a proper review entry after I watch as many games as I can by tomorrow night or perhaps Monday. But right now I though I'd just check in and do some news updates.

Jubilo Reject Urawa's Offer on Fujita
Well, it certainly didn't take long for the whole Fujita-offer news to get spotlighted by every football blog in Japan. It would actually have been exciting -- the J-league is such a small village, that we kind of sink into this comfort zone. From what all the Reds supporters were saying, it sounds as if Fujita would have been welcomed with wide-open arms. Reds players also seemed very enthusiastic about the prospect of having Fujita with them.

However, Jubilo I think were a little offended by the way in which Reds had made their offer -- so suddenly and publicly steamrolling over Jubilo using the media to spread the buzz from here to ...somewhere really far... Anyway, though there seemed to be some confusion in the club following the offer announcement, Jubilo came back with a quick and gruff "no". Not sure how much discussion was done, and by whom (though I think I read somewhere that Yamamoto was quoted as saying "Fujita is a necessary player in the team"), but I guess with the team in such bad shape these days they can't be throwing out someone who represents "Jubilo" the way Fujita does. But if Fujita ends up warming the bench for the next few months I think Fujita fans will be more than annoyed. I would be.

[Edit: It looks like Fujita himself was annoyed at the way Jubilo handled the response to the offer news. Apparently the club did not even consult him before publicizing their response, and he requested a meeting with the club. At the meeting, he said that he wanted to take a more careful look at the possibilities provided by the offer. He said he wanted to create an environment for himself where he can play as much as possible... ]

Inamoto's first game back at WBA
No, not the Women's Basketball Association... Junichi Inamoto returned to West Bromwich Albion last month after being on temporary transfer to Cardiff for a few months. On his return, boss Bryan Robson was still not convinced Ina had what it took to return to the roster, and I was wondering if he would ever get a chance to play in the UK again. However, Ina did make it to the bench in this week's game against Tottenham and subbed in the 23rd minute after a teammate got injured. He played through to the end, and the general comment by media was that he wasn't too bad. The team tied 1-1. Robson seemed very pleased/satisfied with the play of the team and the result, but I guess it didn't mean he was going to keep the squad intact. WBA played Middlesborough, and Ina subbed in the second half after the team was behind by 3 goals. They lost 0-4.

Takahara finally gets another Goal!
Well in the last last game HSV forward Naohiro Takahara was put in as an omf, and didn't do so well there. I was wondering if coach Dorr was thinking of repeating what his predecessor did, forcing Taka to play as a midfielder. The irony is that that was exactly what drove Takahara to say to the previous coach "If I'm not going to play as a forward, I'd prefer to play in the amateurs and work my way back from there." It was at the amateur level that Taka "met" current coach Dorr who was coaching the amateur team at that time. During his time in amateurs, he got to know Takahara well and developed a lot of faith/trust in him -- when he became coach for HSV's top team, he brought Takahara back with him and started to use him as a starter for most games. But for a while now Takahara hasn't been getting goals, and I was worried that he would end up repeating the frustrating cycle of last year. Instead, coach Dorr invited Takahara for a chat this week. At the meeting he kept the pressure off Taka, empathized with a "You must be tired", and they proceeded to watch some old video clips of Takahara when he was playing well.

Dorr has done some "different" things in the past, especially with regard to the psychological aspects of player care. I think I remember when he first became coach he used those exercises that companies use for their employee retreats -- things like "trust games" where you have to fall backwards from a height and "trust" that your teammates/peers/coworkers will catch you; and I think he also used to make the team practice with the loudspeakers blaring crowd noise to get them used to away atmospheres. Anyway, it seems to have done something for the team, as they have made huge improvements under him. And today's goal by Takahara just might be a direct result of the TLC given him by the coach.

As for the goal itself, it was a nicely finished shot -- Mpenza took a shot, it bounced back off the goalie who had dived out for it, and fell in front of Taka. Takahara was caught a little short but ended up sort of scooping the ball getting it to go over the goalie's body and into the right side of the goal. Nice reflexes.

Le Mans are in First Place!
Le Mans played Nancy Friday and won 3-1. A big deal for the team, as Nancy was then at the top of the standings and Le Mans was third. With this win against Nancy, Le Mans climb to the top of Ligue 2 ahead by one point. Daisuke Matsui started on the bench but subbed in the second half and assisted on the second goal by sending a parfait cross to Fanchone. (video will be posted in a few days)
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