Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Nabisco Cup Final! S-Pa v Oita

The last league game before it has been played. The last of the tickets have been sold - the game is totally sold out. The bullet trains to Tokyo the morning of the game are all either full or very close to it. All that remains is for Shimizu S-Pulse to march out side by side with Oita Trinita on Saturday in 2008's Nabisco Cup Final!

The route to the final, which started back in March, has been long and filled with tension, derbies and goals. In summary, here is S-Pulse's road to the Kokuritsu, with UK Ultras article linked where available.

Group Stage

March 20th S-Pulse 3-1 FC Tokyo
March 23rd Tokyo Verdy 0-0 S-Pulse
April 16th S-Pulse 5-0 Tokyo Verdy
May 25th S-Pulse 4-2 Jubilo Iwata
May 31st FC Tokyo 1-1 S-Pulse
June 8th Jubilo Iwata 2-0 S-Pulse

Quarter Final

July 2nd Kashima Antlers 0-0 S-Pulse
August 6th S-Pulse 2-1 Kashima Antlers

Semi Final

September 3rd
S-Pulse 1-1 Gamba Osaka
September 7th
Gamba Osaka 2-3 S-Pulse

As you may expect, I'm not physically capable of anything other than a massively biased preview and that's exactly what you're going to get! Luckily when it comes to this blog, I am my own boss, so I'm going to say it loud, and I'm going to say it proud:


That is based in huge part on pure belief, but what is 90% of being a football fan if it isn't believing in something in the face of indisputable evidence to the contrary? Fortunately in this case we don't have to play too much with the facts to twist things in our favour! Here are some points to help fill you with confidence leading up to the game:

  • S-Pulse can play a full strength team of the type which recently disposed of titles chasers FC Tokyo (5-1 away), Kawasaki (2-0) and Gamba (3-1).
  • Oita are missing first choice keeper through injury.
  • Oita have scored less goals than Sapporo who were relegated to J2, what? five games ago?
  • S-Pulse have players brimming with confidence and Edamura is gunning for competition top scorer
  • Oita have lost three from their last four, scoring only once. That goal scorer is suspended.
  • Kenta Hasegawa experienced the last time we won the Nabisco in 96 as a player, and the last time we lost a cup final as manager. He is NOT about to let that happen again!
  • The hundreds who are marking their spots in the queue days before the game are the same - we are simply aching for victory.
Oita are undeniably one of the most negative teams in the league. They may have scored the third least in the league, but they have also conceded the least - seven less than leaders Kashima Antlers. Saying that, we've breached that defensive line three times in our two meetings this year, so we clearly know what to do.

At our last meeting, we blew a two goal lead at their place to draw 2-2. That was back in early August. I believe that was two different sides playing each other. Since then we've well and truly found our form and feet, while Oita have been severely faltering. Indeed, Oita have conceded as many goals in their last five games since keeper Nishikawa was injured as they had in their previous SIXTEEN.

I could ramble on for hours, but I'm going to call a it a day here. I know as well as anyone that form guides, histories and what people think will happen on paper can count for nothing once the game kicks off. Oita will be desperate for a glorious end to a season in which they've surprised so many. They won't want to make the long journey home empty handed. If it is to go their way, I just prey it's not a result of an anti-football 1-0 snooze-fest, or, God forbid, a penalty shoot out. There's been only three goals in the last four finals, and a third of all finals have gone to penalties. Saturday is going to be HUGE. It's going to be MASSIVE. So Oita and S-Pa, it's down to us to do our bit - let's both come to play football and make it a final to remember!

All I ask now is this: To S-Pulse's team of young, hungry heroes, you get out there and you bring that trophy back to Shimizu!! Then jump in your team bus and join us in our party by the sea! The whole of Shizuoka is willing it!




Unknown said...

I just wanted to give you my support and let you know I'll be watching the TV hoping for a Shimizu victory. I definitely don't want to see boring Oita take any glory, and after a worrying patch earlier I think Shimizu deserves it a lot more!

Good luck to you!

Mike Tuckerman said...

We'll win it. ;)

Barry said...

Bah. :(