Takashi Sekizuka names his final London 2012 squad

(From Japan Today):

As he confirmed the names of the eighteen Japan Under-23 men’s national football team players who will make the trip to London 2012, Takashi Sekizuka largely demonstrated his faith in those who helped secure Japan’s place at the Olympic Games football tournament finals. Excluding Yuhei Tokunaga and Maya Yoshida, who are included as two of the three permissible over-age members in the squad, twelve of sixteen contributed to the qualification campaign a minimum of three times, a number which would have been higher were it not for injuries to FC Nuremburg-bound playmaker Hiroshi Kiyotake.

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Consadole Sapporo – the worst team in J.League history?

15 games. Just one win. Only ten goals scored, but 36 conceded. Four points. This is the current record of Consadole Sapporo, currently languishing at the bottom of J.League Division 1, a team which shows no sign of making any kind of recovery. Their average of 0.27 points per game, should it continue along the same trajectory, would seem them finish the 2012 campaign with an historic low of nine points. Even the most cursory of glances at the league table will confirm that the J.League’s sole representatives from Hokkaido are having a terrible season, but the question posed here is whether are they on course to become the worst side to have ever appeared in the top flight of Japanese professional football.

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The Press Round-up

(Yuki Nagasato’s first-half strike gave the Nadeshiko victory over Sweden in the 2012 Sweden Invitational, Japan finishing runners-up in the three-member tournament behind the United States with one win and one defeat)

The Japan women’s national football team wrapped up their participation in the 2012 Sweden Invitational with a 1-0 win against the host nation. Yuki Nagasato prodded home on the 27th minute for her second goal in the competition and her third in consecutive matches, and was the only Japanese player to have found the net in the round-robin tournament. Norio Sasaki fielded a relatively young side for the match, captain Aya Miyama, second-choice goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto, midfielder Megumi Kamionobe and forward Kozue Ando the only players in the starting line-up over the age of 25. Homare Sawa, Nahomi Kawasumi, Mizuho Sakaguchi, Shinobu Ohno and Yukari Kinga were named as substitutes.

The defeat was the second in as many years for the Blågult at the hands of Japan having exited the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup at the semi-final stage in a 3-1 loss, and they meet again on 28 July at the City of Coventry Stadium, their fixture the pick of the Group F games in the London 2012 Olympic Women’s football tournament.

Hindering their final preparations is news that Rumi Utsugi, who was stretchered off the field in the 4-1 defeat versus the US after a poor challenge from Carli Lloyd, has suffered knee ligament damage. The 23-year old midfielder, who supported her teammates in the Sweden match from the sidelines, has not yet been ruled out of making the final Olympic squad, Norio Sasaki confirming that an assessment will be made in early July.

The Under-20 Japan women’s national team completed their two match series versus the United States with honours even, a 1-0 loss on 17 June followed by a 2-0 defeat three days later, as they continued their preparations for the forthcoming World Cup as hosts. In keeping with their respective senior sides, both nations will begin the tournament among the favourites and should they top their groups as expected, a prospective meeting could only occur in one of the medal matches. Japan begin their campaign on 19 August versus Mexico at the Miyagi Stadium.

Shinji Kagawa has departed Narita Airport for his medical at Manchester United, notes the Mainichi Shimbun. The Samurai Blue international’s stay in the UK will be of a very short duration, with his return home expected to be on 23 June.

And finally, the Mainichi also confirms that Kuniya Daini is the President-Elect of the Japan Football Association, and will replace the outgoing Junji Ogura at the expiration of his term. Daini, who represented his country 44 times in a playing career that spanned nearly a decade, and as a defender played for Mitsubishi Motors, the predecessors of Urawa Red Diamonds, has been a Vice-President of the JFA since 2006.

No room for Kagawa as Sekizuka names provisional London 2012 squad

Shinji Kagawa’s versatility across attacking midfield and goal-scoring prowess will not be on display at the London 2012 Men’s Olympic football tournament, as he was omitted Thursday from Takashi Sekizuka’s 35-strong provisional squad for the competition as expected.

The senior international, who still qualifies as an Under-23 player, can now focus wholly on completing his transfer to the English Premier League side Manchester United and the forthcoming pre-season, as they attempt to wrest back a title so dramatically won by their neighbors Manchester City on the final day of the 2011/12 campaign.

There is also no place in the roster for the second of Japan’s two internationally acclaimed players, with the Under-23 national team head coach opting to bolster his options in goal and defense rather than seeking to exploit the playmaking talents of Keisuke Honda as one of his three over-age players. Akihiro Hayashi, whose presence and performances between the posts have helped a goal-shy Shimizu S-Pulse to fourth position in the J-League and the joint best defensive record in the division, is one of four goalkeepers named in the squad, the S-Pa stopper’s selection made on the basis that neither Shunsuke Ando or Takuya Masuda are regular choices for their clubs, and ensuring that first-choice Shuichi Gonda benefits from the added competition.

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The Press Round-up

(The first-half from the Young Nadeshiko’s Group C fixture versus England in the 2010 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup, their only victory of a tournament from which they exited at the group stage, finishing third behind Mexico and Nigeria. Japan will once again meet Mexico in the group stage in the 2012 tournament, doing battle with El Tricolor at the Miyagi Stadium on 19 August. The second period can be viewed here)

In the biggest news of the day, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund both announced separately that terms have been agreed for the transfer of the Bundesglia club and Japan international Shinji Kagawa to the English Premier League side. The Asahi Shimbun notes that while full details have not been disclosed, the expected transfer fee is in the region of £12 million, rising to a potential £18 million. The deal is subject to a medical and acquiring the necessary work permit for the UK, together with Kagawa formally signing the contact. While the attacking midfielder does not strictly meet the criteria necessary to obtain a work permit on the basis of not having made the requisite number of appearances for the Samurai Blue, it is expected to be a formality on ‘exceptional talent’ grounds.

The 23-year old Kobe native confirmed in remarks to reports at a training session in Saitama that he is yet to sign any contract, adding that he is not willing to discuss his own future and wants to focus instead on the national side and their two remaining 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in June. Japan meet Jordan on Friday, before flying to Brisbane for the 12 June tie against Australia.

The Asahi Shimbun also reports that the Japan Football Association has announced a 21-strong squad for the Nadeshiko’s trip to Sweden, where they will participate in the 2012 Sweden Invitational. Japan will contest the round-robin tournament with their fellow London 2012 Group F rivals and the United States, who they will meet in a major final for the second time in as many years if the seedings for the competition hold true, having triumphed over Team USA in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Homare Sawa, who has fully recovered after being struck down with benign paroxysmal postural vertigo, is included in the travelling party together with 2011 AFC Women’s Player of the Year and captain Aya Miyama, while Ami Otaki receives her first call up to the senior team. The full squad is as follows:

Position
Name
Club
GK Miho Fukumoto Okayama Yunogo Belle
GK Ayumi Kaihori INAC Leonessa
DF Yukari Kinga INAC Leonessa
DF Kyoko Yano Urawa Reds Ladies
DF Azusa Iwashimizu NTV Beleza
DF Aya Sameshima Montpellier HSC
DF Saori Ariyoshi NTV Beleza
DF Saki Kumagai 1. FFC Frankfurt
MF Homare Sawa INAC Leonessa
MF Aya Miyama Okayama Yunogo Belle
MF Nahomi Kawasumi INAC Leonessa
MF Megumi Kamionobe Albirex Niigata Ladies
MF Mizuho Sakaguchi NTV Beleza
MF Asuna Tanaka INAC Leonessa
MF Rumi Utsugi Montpellier HSC
FW Kozue Ando FCR 2001 Duisburg
FW Shinobu Ohno INAC Leonessa
FW Yuki Nagasato 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam
FW Ami Otaki Olympique Lyonnais
FW Megumi Takase INAC Leonessa
FW Mana Iwabuchi NTV Beleza

The Yomiuri Shimbun adds that the squad for the London 2012 Olympic Games will then need to be reduced to eighteen players, with those getting the nod for the trip to London to be decided by manager Norio Sasaki in early July.

Japan are set to play Mexico, Switzerland and New Zealand in the FIFA Women’s Under-20 World Cup. With Homare Sawa presiding over the draw, the Young Nadeshiko will begin their Group A campaign against Mexico on 19 August at the Miyagi Stadium, where they will meet New Zealand three days later, before playing the Swiss in their third and final group match at the National Olympic Stadium on 26 August. Should Japan progress to the quarter-final stage, they will meet one of Brazil, South Korea, Italy or Nigeria on 30 August. The World Cup final takes place on 8 September at the National Olympic Stadium.

And finally, Zdenko Verdenik is the new manager at Omiya Ardija. The 63-year old, who had spells in charge at JEF United, Nagoya Grampus and Vegalta Sendai between 2000 and 2004, remarked that he was delighted to be working at a J.League Division 1 club again, and will take the reins at the Squirrels prior to their Matchday Fourteen clash against Kashima Antlers on 16 June.

The Press Round-up

The 2012 Kirin Challenge Cup fixture with Azerbaijan was the final chance for Samurai Blue manager Alberto Zaccheroni to run the rule over his players before selecting his squad for the three upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification matches. The national team eased to a 2-0 victory courtesy of goals from Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki either side of half-time. Kagawa, the subject of intense press speculation in recent weeks after confirming he would not be renewing his contract with Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund, broke legendary Japan striker Kunishige Kamamoto’s longstanding record to become the youngest player to reach ten goals for his country.

The morning after the match the Italian named the players who will join him for the matches against Oman, Jordan and Australia, and despite increasing the overall headcount from 23 to 25, there is no place for FC Tokyo’s Yuhei Tokunaga and Aria Hasegawa or Urawa Reds’ Genki Haraguchi, while defenders Yasuyuki Konno and Maya Yoshida, midfielders Hiroshi Kiyotake and Yasuhito Endo, and striker Mike Havnenaar all make the cut. The full squad details are as follows:

Position Name Club
GK Eiji Kawashima Lierse S.K.
GK Shusaku Nishikawa Sanfrecce Hiroshima
GK Shuichi Gonda FC Tokyo
DF Yuichi Komano Jubilo Iwata
DF Yasuyuki Konno Gamba Osaka
DF Yuzo Kurihara Yokohama F-Marinos
DF Masahiko Inoha Vissel Kobe
DF Yuto Nagatomo Internazionale
DF Tomoaki Makino 1. FC Köln
DF Atsuto Uchida Schalke 04
DF Maya Yoshida VVV-Venlo
DF Hiroki Sakai Kashiwa Reysol
MF Yasuhito Endo Gamba Osaka
MF Kengo Nakamura Kawasaki Frontale
MF Makoto Hasebe VfL Wolfsburg
MF Hajime Hosogai FC Augsburg
MF Keisuke Honda CSKA Moscow
MF Hideto Takahashi FC Tokyo
FW Ryoichi Maeda Jubilo Iwata
FW Shinji Okazaki VfB Stuttgart
FW Mike Havenaar Vitesse Arnhem
FW Takayuki Morimoto Novara
FW Shinji Kagawa Borussia Dortmund
FW Hiroshi Kiyotake Cerezo Osaka
FW Ryo Miyaichi Arsenal

The Asahi Shimbun has a piece on the ongoing financial troubles at J.League Division 2 outfit FC Gifu, currently sat rock bottom of the professional ranks. Having previously been unable to repay a ¥50 million loan by a 2009 deadline, the club’s position has become so perilous as to have spurred a meeting attended by the prefectural government, including the chambers of commerce and tourism organisation, together with a number of private sector bodies to try to ensure its survival. The situation is so far without resolution.

In the final story of the day, the Sankei Shimbun takes its lead from German football magazine Kicker, stating that Samurai Blue defender Atsuto Uchida has entered negotiations to extend his contract with Bundesliga side Schalke 04. Horst Heldt, the General Manager at Die Königsblauen has described the 24-year old right-back as being extremely professional towards the club and having a wonderful mentality.

The Daily Round-up

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that the Yokohama F-Marinos defender Takashi Amano faces eight months on the sidelines in his fight to recover from the anterior cruciate ligament injury he sustained during pre-season training in October.

The newspaper also confirms that Italian giants AC Milan have opened their second soccer school in Japan. The soccer school is located in the small city of Yufu, Oita Prefecture, which joins the school in Komaki, Aichi Prefecture in the Rossoneri’s growing overseas operations.

The Mainichi Shimbun adds that the date of the All Japan Women’s Football Championship, the L.League equivalent of the Emperor’s Cup, is being changed from the traditional New Year’s Day fixture to 24 December. The change has been made in the hope of attracting more spectators to the women’s final, with what is regarded as the final match of the football season previously being only a prelude to the Emperor’s Cup.

Bad news for Shinji Okazaki and VfB Stuttgart, notes the Asahi Shimbun. Okazaki damaged ligaments in his right knee during training on 14 March, and will miss the next two to three weeks including the 16 March fixture against TSG Hoffenheim.

The Nikkei Shimbun leads with a story confirming that the Nadeshiko remain at third place in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking. There have been no changes to the first seven places, but only 52 points separate the top three of United States, Germany and Japan.

And finally, the Sankei Shumbun turns its attention to the Osaka derby. As outlined in the Matchday 2 preview here, Gamba’s hold over Cerezo Osaka is almost total. However coach Jose Carlos Serrao has apologised to supporters following a poor start to the season in which Gamba began with a 3-0 home defeat to South Korea’s Pohang Steelers in the AFC Champions League, with Vissel Kobe taking three points at the Osaka Expo ’70 Stadium on the opening day of the J.League Division 1 season. In an interview at a closed training session held on 16 March, Serrao stated that “if we win [at Cerezo] tomorrow, it will be a turning point”.

Cerezo Osaka’s coach Sérgio Soares, meanwhile, has included Under-23 Samurai Blue players Hiroshi Kiyotake, Hotaru Yamaguchi and Takahiro Ogihara in his squad for the match, despite their exertions in the 2-0 victory over Bahrain which secured a berth at London 2012.