Japan v Latvia Friendly Result (Kirin Challenge Cup 2013)

The Samurai Blue eased to victory against very poor opposition in the shape of Latvia, but it wasn’t until the 41st minute that they took the lead. Shinji Okazaki stretched to divert Atsuto Uchida’s wayward shot into the net via the upright to give Japan a 1-0 advantage at half-time.

Two further goals were added in the space of teo minutes in the second period, both created by Shinji Kagawa. First on 59 minutes Keisuke Honda bent the ball beyond the reach of Vanins in the Latvia goal, before Okazaki doubled his tally and scored his 31st overall in 59 appearances for the national team, rounding Vanins and rolling the ball into the empty net. Okazaki now sits just seven goals behind Hiromi Hara in the all-time goal scoring table for his country, and continuing at only a marginally improved goals per game ratio could see him reach Hara in third position before the close of the year.

With such bare resistance offered by their opponents it took little effort on the Samurai Blues’ part to dismantle the visitors, but they can be satisfied with a reasonable performance and in having achieved the expected and required comfortable win.

Japan Japan
Okazaki 41′, 61′
Honda 60′
3 Latvia 5050 Latvia 0

Japan: Kawashima; Uchida (Gotoku Sakai, 62′), Konno (Inoha, 66′), Yoshida, Nagatomo; Hasebe, Hosogai (Endo, 45′); Kiyotake (Maeda, 45′), Honda (Inui, 62′), Kagawa; Okazaki (Otsu, 81′)
Substitutes: Hayashi, Gonda; Inoha, Gotoku Sakai, Mizumoto, Hiroki Sakai; Endo, Takahashi; Inui, Otsu; Maeda

Latvia: Vanins; Bulvītis, Ivanovs, Gorkšs, Rugins; Laizāns (Žigajevs, 65′), Cauna (Sinelnikovs, 88′), Višnakovs (Zjuzins, 65′), Fertovs; Kamešs (Maksimenko, 72′), Gauračs (Verpakovskis, 71′)
Substitutes: Doroševs, Mālins, Maksimenko, Klava, Kurakins, Smirnovs, Žigajevs, Zjuzins, Sinelnikovs, Verpakovskis


92nd Emperor’s Cup Final


Masakatsu Sawa’s snap shot after a pass from Leandro Domingues was turned away well by Gamba Osaka goalkeeper Yohei Takeda. From the resulting corner, however, bent away from goal by Jorge Wagner, Yasuhito Endo could not climb high enough to divert the ball away from goal, and Masakatsu Sawa rose to plant a firm header beyond Takeda to score the only goal of the game for Kashiwa Reysol. which ended Gamba Osaka’s hopes of appearing in their sixth consecutive AFC Champions League. Reysol join Australia’s Central Coast Mariners, Guizhou Renhe from China and South Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings in Group H, taking the final place reserved for a Japanese side in the competition. Gamba now have the opportunity to focus primarily on gaining immediate promotion back to the top-flight of Japanese football, but whether they are able to rely on the talents of senior internationals Endo and Yasuyuki Konno, together with the potent attacking abilities of Leandro and Akihiro Ienaga is a matter which will be decided in the coming weeks.

Gamba Osaka
0 Kashiwa Reysol
Watanabe 35′

92nd Emperor’s Cup: Semi-Final Results

(Yasuhito Endo’s 23rd minute cross flew over Hitoshi Sogahata and into the Kashima Antlers’ net, but the fortuitous nature of the strike shouldn’t undermine a performance in which his Gamba Osaka side came closest to adding to the number of goals scored, and reached the 92nd Emperor’s Cup final. Endo struck the bar later in the first period, while Akihiro Ienaga also went close with a flying volley as Sogahata’s handling deserted him. Yuya Osako found the woodwork with a thumping header for Antlers, but it is Gamba who will have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 AFC Champions League, and provide the best possible case for Endo and fellow Samurai Blue Yasuyuki Konno to remain with the Suita side as they seek immediate promotion to J.League Division 1)

Gamba Osaka
Endo 23′
1 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F-Marinos
0 Kashiwa Reysol
Kudo 23′

Matches played 29 December. Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol will meet in the 92nd Emperor’s Cup Final, to be played on 1 January 2013 at the National Olympic Stadium, kick-off 14:00 JST.

92nd Emperor’s Cup: Quarter-Final Results

(Highlights of the 92nd Emperor’s Cup quarter-final between Nagoya Grampus and Yokohama F-Marinos. The sides couldn’t be separated after 120 minutes, and the tie came down to penalty kicks. After Jungo Fujimoto put Grampus’s first spot-kick wide of the left upright, players from both sides all converted until Yuji Ono stepped up in the fifth round to win the contest for F-Marinos. Seigo Narazaki, however, guessed correctly and dived low to his left to save. The match wouldn’t be decided until the eighth round of penalties, as Yuji Nakazawa confidently placed his penalty into the bottom left corner, and Grampus’s Hayuma Tanaka saw his spot-kick saved, sending F-Marinos into the semi-finals for a meeting with Kashiwa Reysol)

Cerezo Osaka
Kakitani 49′
1 Gamba Osaka
Endo 19′
Ienaga 112′
JEF United Chiba
0 Kashima Antlers
Osako 64′
Nagoya Grampus
0 (6) Yokohama F-Marinos
0 (7)
Omiya Ardija
Ueda 11′
Cho 23′
2 Kashiwa Reysol
Sawa 59′
Masushima 83′
Kudo 90′

(Matches played 23 December. Scores in parentheses indicate result of penalty kicks)

The All-Time J.League Best XIs

The 2012 J.League awards ceremony was held on 3 December, Hisato Sato, a number of his teammates and manager Hajime Moriyasu rightly honoured as one of the most impressive, inventive and attractive sides of recent years claimed the league title. The inclusion of a number of players in the 2012 J.League Best XI caused some surprise, however, not the least of which was Vegalta Sendai’s Wilson being named ahead of either Leandro or teammate Shingo Akamine. Nonetheless, with 2012 also being the 20th anniversary of the instigation of Japan’s professional football league, it is time to reflect upon the selection of those players who were considered the best in their positions for each of those twenty years, and devise an “All-Time Best XI” comprising exclusively Japanese players and a further wholly foreign team. Owing to the likelihood of a number of positions featuring players to have been included an equal number of times, certain tie-breaking criteria were determined as follows:

Number of Times in Best XI; If equal
Number of Times named MVP; If still equal
Number of Title Wins; If still equal
Player’s Regular Position

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Gamba Osaka’s Leandro – the best goal scorer in the J.League

(Leandro nets a brace in Gamba Osaka’s 5-0 mauling of Urawa Red Diamonds at the Saitama Stadium on Matchday 26, his second an exquisite, improvised flick coming in the 60th minute)

On 3 December 2012, Hisato Sato of Sanfrecce Hiroshima was very fittingly awarded the J.League MVP, Top Scorer and Individual Fair Play awards, the culmination of an excellent season and evening for both player and squad, as Hajime Moriyasu collected the Manager of the Year award, Toshihiro Aoyama accepted the Team Fair Play award, and three squad members in addition to Sato and Aoyama were named to the 2012 J.League Best XI.

However, one name in particular was noticeable by its inclusion in the team selection for the wrong reasons, Vegalta Sendai forward Wilson bafflingly chosen when several candidates appeared more worthy of selection. This analysis looks at the players to have scored a minimum of ten goals in the 2012 season, and ranks them on the basis of a number of key criteria, most notably goals scored per minute of playing time, first goal scored as a percentage of team goals and shots to conversion ratio. The conclusion confirms the names of two players who would be worthier candidates to join Sato and Sagan Tosu’s Yohei Toyoda in completing the forward line.

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J.League Division 1: 2012 Final Standings

Gamba Osaka went into the final day of the 2012 season in 16th position, and while at the mercy of results elsewhere in the table to remain in J.League Division 1, sought victory at the Yamaha Stadium to ensure the best possible prospect of survival. Masanobu Matsunami’s men began the match in poor fashion, conceding inside the first five minutes as Yosuke Fujigaya added to a litany of goalkeeping blunders, fumbling a low cross against defender Sota Nakazawa. Akira Kaji made a desperate attempt at a goal line clearance, but could only divert the ball against Jubilo striker Ryoichi Maeda for the opening goal of the game.

Shu Kurata’s superb footwork enabled Gamba to draw level in the 53rd minute, firing high into the Jubilo net from a tight angle for a much needed equaliser, but although Leandro headed against the bar in the 79th minute, and less than two minutes later Yasuhito Endo saw his goal disallowed for a very marginal offside decision, they were unable to find a second goal. Instead, midfielder Yuki Kobayashi exchanged passes with Maeda, then rifled a shot past Fujigaya to hand the home side their first league victory since 15 September and send the Suita outfit into the second division for the first time in their history. Only Kashima Antlers, Yokohama F-Marinos, Nagoya Grampus and Shimizu S-Pulse now remain of the sides never to have set foot outside the top flight.

Highlights of all of the final round of matches in J.League Division 1 can be found at this link.

Home Away
Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima (C) 34 10 2 5 32 16 9 5 3 31 18 +29 64
2 Vegalta Sendai (ACL) 34 9 6 2 34 17 6 6 5 25 26 +16 57
3 Urawa Red Diamonds (ACL) 34 8 6 3 23 18 7 4 6 24 24 +5 55
4 Yokohama F-Marinos 34 7 7 3 24 15 6 7 4 20 18 +11 53
5 Sagan Tosu 34 11 3 3 26 12 4 5 8 22 27 +9 53
6 Kashiwa Reysol 34 6 5 6 28 30 9 2 6 29 22 +5 52
7 Nagoya Grampus 34 8 3 6 22 19 7 4 6 24 28 -1 52
8 Kawasaki Frontale 34 7 2 8 25 26 7 6 4 26 24 +1 50
9 Shimizu S-Pulse 34 6 7 4 23 21 8 0 9 16 19 -1 49
10 FC Tokyo 34 8 1 8 30 22 6 5 6 17 22 +3 48
11 Kashima Antlers 34 8 3 6 36 21 4 7 6 14 22 +7 46
12 Jubilo Iwata 34 9 5 3 31 19 4 2 11 26 34 +4 46
13 Omiya Ardija 34 6 5 6 17 20 5 6 6 21 25 -7 44
14 Cerezo Osaka 34 6 3 8 26 28 5 6 6 21 25 -6 42
15 Albirex Niigata 34 3 6 8 15 21 7 4 6 14 13 -5 40
16 Vissel Kobe (R) 34 5 3 9 19 21 6 3 8 22 29 -9 39
17 Gamba Osaka (R) 34 4 7 6 36 35 5 4 8 31 30 +2 38
18 Consadole Sapporo (R) 34 3 2 12 13 34 1 0 16 12 54 -63 14