Thursday, 24 July 2008

Japan 2-1 Australia (U23)

"Get the goal, get the goal, Okazaki, get the goal!"

And get the goal he did! A stiflingly hot Thursday evening in Kobe saw the Japanese under 23 Olympic team face off with their Ozzie counterparts in a pre-Beijing friendly. With Kaito and Honda both donning national team colours, and with Okazaki on the bench, it was a great night for the 'Pulse and one they should be proud of. Having gone 1-0 down to the Ozzies just after the half hour, Japan pulled level five minutes later with a goal from Cerezo Osaka teenager Kagawa.

After that it took till the last minute of the game for Japan to snatch their winner, and who should it have come from but our very own super-sub Okachan! Glancing in a header which foxed Ozzie keeper Federici, the goal came too late for any kind of comeback, and when the whistle went, the bloke with the biggest smile was the man who came on in the 74th minute and won Japan the game! Nice one, Shinji - Shizuoka's proud of ya!

Monday, 21 July 2008

That's more like it lads...

Finally, a day at the footie to relax and enjoy! The only times Shizza and I were troubled yesterday was before the match as we groaned through the line up. Why was Omae nowhere to be seen, not even on the bench? Why do we always have Oka-chan on the bench and never at the start, despite his obvious ability? And oh God, Marcos Paulo's in the starting line-up. For a moment, it seemed like Kenta really would be on his way out.

But we should know better than to doubt the Mighty Pulse. Although the above questions still stand, it was a solid S-Pulse performance and Albirex never looked anywhere near good enough to beat us - and that was just the pre-match pro-evolution game shown on the big screen! Watching that before the actual match, we joked about how a 3-1 victory would be awesome after recent form - and then the lads went one better and brought us a well deserved 3-0, and the other magic 3 - points!

Nishizawa will undoubtedly be happy with his double, as will Kazumichi for his shot off the corner. Even Paulo managed a decent game, although I would like to see him do more. I was very happy when Okazaki came on later in the second half and although he didn't manage to get a goal (well, 3-0 is nice, but we wouldn't have complained about 4) he did look good - and I'm not just talking about his body! (Ok, I might have a wee bit of a crush on Okazaki, but that's allowed right?)

It was a mad drunken day and night for all at the 'Daira last night, with Shizza's big bro in town to share the joy. ロコロコ was as good as ever, and as always the back of my legs are battered from being whacked off the chairs. I bruise so easily my co-workers now check my calves to see whether Shimizu won the day before - if there is nothing there, they know better than to mention the game to me. Hopefully the rest of the season will bring lots more shades of purple and blue, continuing with Omiya on Sunday. Shizza, I and a good few other UK Ultras are heading up to cheer on the Orange Soldiers - and boys, its my birthday, so another three points would be the best present a girl could have - short of Okazaki wrapped up with a big orange ribbon, that is!


Saturday, 19 July 2008

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Slide to J2 Continues


Not having seen the game, not having seen the stats, and not yet having spoken to anyone who was there, I've just had the Mixi S-Pa community message board to go on (and it ain't pretty!). It's far from a satisfactory way to report on a game, so I'm not going to attempt anything other than most cursory overview of tonight's capitulation.

To lose to another 88th minute goal is embarrassing, frustrating and worse than that, leaves us one point from the relegation zone with half the season played. Is this really the difference Jae-Jin made to our team? Were we really that much of a one man team? The obvious answer is no - minus the lanky Korean, we're effectively the same team as last year - a squad still swimming in young talent. The acquisition of Honda and Omae only added to that, so where it's all going wrong is something which needs fixing, and quick. The utterly inexplicable loss of Fernandinho last month is playing no small part in our recent poor form, of that I'm certain.

Before I wrote the preview to this game, I didn't believe Kenta's position would really come under pressure, but questions are now being asked, not least on Mixi, and we need answers in the form of points. Starting Sunday at home to Niigata, a revival is now CRUCIAL. Who'd have thought after finishing 4th in 2006 and 2007 that we'd be down there in the relegation battle? But there we are. Who fancies a Thursday night trip to Mito Hollyhock or Tokushima Vortis next year?


Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Kawasaki S-Pa - Preview

This Thursday, 15th placed S-Pa make the not-so-long trip up the Tōkaidō to face many people's pre-season tip for the title, Kawasai Frontale. Currently sitting in 11th and having been decidedly hit and miss so far this season, S-Pa can steam into this one without too much to fear. Sadly neither me or Fuz will be heading up to Kawasaki, but a good number of the extended UKU family will be at the Todoroki with an army of S-Pulse who will be filling their end and doing their bit for the cause.

Despite us sitting just above the drop zone, it's (probably) far too early to be worrying that Kenta's position at the helm may be at risk. The J. League is also free (for the most part) of the managerial merry-go-round (© every British tabloid ever) which blights English football, but Marinos, who are just one space below us, sacked their manager and head coach this week. It's also a fact that only one S-Pulse manager has ever made it past three years. That was Steve Perryman who had us up there only missing out on a championship title on penalties. Kenta really needs a win right now. I can't help starting to wonder how long he's going to get to turn things around. Local legend though he is, another couple of dodgy home defeats and an exit from the Nabisco next month could see things get very uncomfortable for him. What we need is a solid away performance to get us back on track and help swell the gate on Sunday for our tie with Albirex.

Well, with a stupidly busy week keeping me from any extended preview, I'm off to my bed. Two days at the office and then it's off for five weeks. With my big bro hitting Japan for a fortnight on Saturday, we'll be off to 'Daira on Sunday and off on a BDO to Omiya next week - bring it!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

S-Pa's Young Lions off to Beijing

With the Beijing Games now only a matter of weeks away, the Japanese Olympic football team has been announced. S-Pa's wealth of young talent has been recognised, with an unmatched three players included in the eighteen man squad.

Goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto rarely sees first team action all the time Nishibe is around and fit, but on the one or two occasions I've seen him, he's a solid keeper and a great prospect for the future. Honda has stepped up from university to professional football this season with ease and has proved one of our better close-season acquisitions. Okazaki has seen a fair amount of action with Kenta's forward line differing from game to game. He's young, hungry and the Olympics is going to be a great experience for him.

Kaito, Okazaki and Honda - Shizuoka's proud of you, now go get gold!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

S-Pa 0-1 Kobe


Looking on the bright side, I won a rather snazzy t-shirt at half time:

Every cloud. :)

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Sapporo 2-2 S-Pa

Sapporo 2-2 S-Pa
Davi (29) Nishizawa (12)
Ikeuchi (75) Paulo (44)

Att: 10282

And this is why this season, in the league at least, is a write off. Not being able to hold on to a lead against 2nd rate relegation fodder like Sapporo, and in the end almost being lucky to get away with a point, is why we're not going to finish anywhere above midtable at best.

More of a report when the red mist has evaporated. At present I can't see any positives to take from today's awful result, so I'm not going to comment until I've been able to put it in some kind of perspective. Or till I've had the chance to get really drunk.

Match Highlights:

Friday, 4 July 2008

Consadore Sapporo v S-Pa (Preview)

After S-Pulse's midweek jaunt up to Kashima comes an even longer journey up to Hokkaido. For the first time in six years our opponents are the J. League's most northern team Consadore Sapporo. Before the fixtures came out in February, the UK Ultras were all fully intending to make this game, but falling as and when it does it just wasn't possible. A couple of the UKU's extended family will be there, but we'll be holed up in front of the big screen at the Shimizu branch of the S-Pulse Dream House chain. With draft beer on sale, it's the nearest you get to watching a game down the pub!

Consadore are languishing in the drop zone at 17th with a minus 15 goal difference. They've only won three all season and with only one draw we've got to be looking for three points. We've got Kobe at home next week which should also be good for a win, so all being well, we could be up to 5th or 6th in a couple of weeks. Now watch as we crash and burn to inferior opposition and wind up in the relegation zone! Nah, bollocks - we're gonna turn them both over and sort out our dodgy goal difference in the process! WE BELIEVE!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Antlers 0-0 S-Pa (Nabisco 1/4 Final 1st Leg)

Kashima 14 - 3 S-Pulse.

Thankfully that was shots rather than goals. By all accounts Nishibe played a blinder to keep the score all square, and being honest, I'd probably have taken 0-0 before the game. But a mere three shots (that's total shots - on target or not) is pretty pathetic, and it's symptomatic of our season so far. We have the third lowest goals tally in the league, and I honestly can't see anything changing without either A) a signing, or B) one of our many young talents making a sudden greater impact. It was obvious we were always to going to miss Jae-Jin, but the lack of fire power is depressingly apparent most games.

Well, looking on he bright side, 0-0 at a team who just four days ago destroyed Nagoya 4-0 away is not a bad result by any stretch. Our back four must have been doing something right! The scoreline does now mean we have to win at home in the 2nd leg to ensure progression after 90. A score draw will put them through on away goals, while another 0-0 will mean Antlers fans miss their last train home as the game goes into extra time. Still, you can't be afraid to try and win games, and lets not forget we saw off Antlers at home earlier in the year.

The home leg is on Wed August 6th and lets hope we see a few more people down 'Daira than the pitiful turnout at Kashima Stadium this evening. Less than 7000 people bothered, with even bottom-of-the-table JEF getting 1500 more for their clash with Nagoya. For unquestionably the most successful team in Japanese football, Kashima's support is bizarrely low at times. Johnny-come-latelys like Urawa or Albirex dwarf their crowds on a regular basis, with Albirex having never even come close to any silverware!

Ah, well, anyway. It doesn't matter how many goons are in the stands if you're winning games, and that's what we've now got to do next month. We'll be without our quartet of Olympic players which won't help, but come on S-Pa, we'll all be there behind the goal as usual, so don't let us down! Marching on to the semis!!!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Nabisco Cup 1/4 Final: Antlers v S-Pa (1st leg) Preview

Having finished top of our Nabisco Cup group last month, it's onwards and upwards for S-Pa! As we march into our first league cup quarter final since 2005 we hold high hopes of reaching our first semi since '03. The fact that reigning double winners Kashima Antlers stand in our way is but a minor inconvenience. The fact that said Antlers destroyed second-in-the-league Nagoya Grampus 4-0 away from home last Saturday is mere detail. You read is here first: S-Pulse dispatch Antlers away from home in the first leg before finishing the job off with a rampant display at Nihondaira next month. Then watch as either Marinos or Gamba crumble beneath Aurerio's deadly touch in front of goal, before we then sweep majestically past our hapless opponents at the Kokuritsu on our path to cup glory.

Hold on a minute - Nurse! I think I'm out of medication!

Nah, bollocks to it - we're going to take it to Antlers and dump them out the only competition that eluded them last year. You've got to believe - in fact it was S-Pulse fans themselves who said such just a few weeks back:

Tomorrow being leg one of two, the return fixture is scheduled in for August 6th. Smack in the middle of the summer hols, I'm expecting to see a bumper crowd down at 'Daira to roar us onto glory! In other news, a training camp team for the Japan Olmypic team football squad has been announced and S-Pa hold the distinction of being the only side with FOUR players included in the squad. Honda, Yamamoto, Aoyama and Okazaki are all set for the trip to China. Good work, lads! Shizuoka's proud of ya! The full, final squad is to be announced in July. Gambare Nippon in China, and Gambare S-Pa as we enter the lion's den up on Deer Island tomorrow!