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Pushing it to Extended Time: Emperor's Cup
Thursday afternoon's semi-finals turned out to be very close games that stretched into extended time.

Cerezo Osaka 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
>>Click for 1st half video stream digest
>>Click for 2nd half + Ext time video stream digest
(The stream may be hard to see while demand is high, so you may have to wait a day or two for uninterrupted playback)

shimizu_ecsemifi.jpg(photo from Sponichi Annex)The tragedy continues for Cerezo. This close to a chance at a title, and they let it slip, again. After some dynamic goals against opponents like Jef Chiba and Gamba Osaka that allowed them entrance to today's round, Cerezo just could not find a way in past a much more defensive Shimizu side.

Shimizu played to their strengths, and it wasn't suprising that they won this with a 1-0 scoreline and a goal from Jae Jin Cho during extended time. Following their Club Youth victory in the Sahara Cup last week >>read entry, this must be a very happy season for S-Pulse!

Urawa Reds 4-2 Omiya Ardija
>>Click for 1st half video stream digest
>>Click for 2nd half + Ext time video stream digest
(The stream may be hard to see while demand is high, so you may have to wait a day or two for uninterrupted playback)

The score at 90 minutes was 2-2, Omiya equalizing in the very last minute before the second half ended. But that second goal for Omiya (by Tomita) was the last that the Squirrels could muster. In the first half of the extended period, Reds were able to get two and proceed to the historic finals that takes place on New Year's day.

***

With the recent national team roster call-up announcement, first time call-up 21 yr old Makoto Hasebe (Urawa) probably got a lot of attention this afternoon by the media. He scored two goals today, and I can already see the headlines for tomorrow morning's sports papers... If you are curious as to what he looks and sounds like, here is a video stream of a post-game interview.

(Rough Translation) In the video interview above, Hasebe says that they "will go after the win for the title and an eye on the ticket to the ACL. We haven't really analyzed the next opponent (Shimizu) yet, but our current defense line is quite stable and the key will be how effectively we can attack. I hadn't been directly involved in many goals recently, so the goals today have increased the level of my confidence and ambition. (Shimizu) seems like a very tough defensive team, and in that they may be similar to our opponents today (Omiya). We want to play our style of football, and come out with the victory. On the pitch, I tried not to be too self-conscious of the attention I am getting (following the national team call-up), but of course I wanted to play as someone who is worthy of representing the nation, take that as my responsibility and source of pride. But I still think I have many areas of improvement, and I want to decrease the number of small errors. I want to improve the quality of my performance for the New Year's day game, and then after during the national team training camp."

So New Year's day, I will be tucked in the kotatsu eating tiny mikan and noodles, and hopefully get to see some of the Final game. Will have to wrestle the remote control away from relatives.. ;)

kotatsu.jpgKotatsu (pic): a very neat little concept. A low table that is covered by a quilt, and has a heating device on the underside of the tabletop so you can tuck your legs and hands inside the table and keep warm. Very cozy, and it tends to make you sleepy.

Mikan: tangerines, a seasonal must in Japan. Get your vitamin C, and hydrate yourself in the dry climate. The thing I love about mikan is that the skins come off as easily as peeling a banana.

Noodles: in Japan, eating noodles ("soba") on New Years is also one of the traditions (of which, you can imagine, we have many). Noodles represent long life -- because...they are long... Hmmm. Rather simplistic symbolism, but there you go.
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