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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Emperor's Cup Round 4: S-Pa v JEF (preview)

Riding the bullet back to Shiz on Saturday evening, I could barely imagine watching another game of football this year, let alone the very next Wednesday. Well, three days have passed and all I can say about tonight's Emperor's Cup (the Japanese equivalent of the FA Cup) fourth round tie is BRING IT!!!

What better way to forget a lost cup final that getting stuck straight back into another cup competition? This game would have been played on Sunday had we not been busy on the Saturday, so it was shifted to midweek. As such, we'll be lucky to see more than four thousand there tonight. Cup football, especially midweek cup football, in Japan never seems to catch the imagination. That's until teams reach the final whereby they then take 20000 fans to Tokyo!

Well it's all good. I'm looking forward to a night down at the 'Daira considerably more low-key than recent cup events. We want the win as much as any game, but a game lacking the tension of the Kashima league cup quarter final will be warmly welcomed by many! And speaking of Antlers, the winner tonight is rewarded with a trip to Ibaraki for a last 16 game. Kashima, who only made it past Kokushikan University on penalties on Sunday, are going for another league and cup double, so the draw could have been kinder!

After the last 16, ties are pre-planned to be staged at neutral venues all over the country. I guess the rationale behind it is to spread the game around to areas which don't normally see professional football, but for the fans of both teams who have to trek hundreds of miles, it has always struck me as an odd system.

After Saturday there is only one team in the history of professional football in Japan that has been to more cup finals than S-Pulse, (yep, that would be Kashima, then!) so with our awesome cup pedigree lets steam in to the this with the confidence only a team with eight final appearances can have! JEF are a different prospect to the team which lost eight from it's first eleven games in the league, but for all their exertions in trying to stay up, I hope the cup is going to prove one distraction too many.

Whatever happens tonight it's a perfect way to ease ourselves and our still-smarting hearts back into the footballing mindset before Saturday's massive Shizuoka Derby. Jubilo have their J1 status on the line, so things may get heated! So far as tonight goes, lets have a win for us, and no repeat of Nishibe getting lobbed from 70 meters as per last season's league game, please!

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