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

J.League Division 1: Matchday 34 Results

(Kazuyuki Morisaki’s 52nd minute penalty without reply gave Sanfrecce Hiroshima three points at the HOME’s Stadium, and combined with Albirex Niigata’s comprehensive 4-1 victory over Consadole Sapporo, condemned Vissel Kobe to relegation after six consecutive seasons in J.League Division 1. Vissel join Gamba and Consadole in the second tier of Japanese professional football, and they will hope to return in similar fashion to 2006, when a third-placed finish was sufficient to secure an immediate return to J1 after relegation in the previous season)

Kashima Antlers small Kashima Antlers
Osako 41′, 68′
2 Kashiwa Reysol Small Kashiwa Reysol
0
Urawa Red Diamonds Small Urawa Red Diamonds
Kashiwagi 23′
Makino 59′
2 Nagoya Grampus Small Nagoya Grampus
0
FC Tokyo Small FC Tokyo
Lucas 8′, 17′
Jang H-S 49′
Watanabe 56′
Vucicevic 82′, 90’+2
6 Vegalta Sendai Small Vegalta Sendai
Akamine 35′
Muto 90’+5
2
Yokohama F-Marinos Small Yokohama F-Marinos
Nakamura 53′
1 Sagan Tosu Small Sagan Tosu
0
Albirex Niigata Small Albirex Niigata
Tsubouchi 8′
Bruno Lopes 43′, 80′
Alan Mineiro 71′
4 Consadole Sapporo Small Consadole Sapporo
Sakaki 53′
1
Shimizu S-Pulse Small Shimizu S-Pulse
0 Omiya Ardija Small Omiya Ardija
0
Jubilo Iwata Small Jubilo Iwata
Maeda 5′
Yuki Kobayashi 85′
2 Gamba Osaka Small Gamba Osaka
Kurata 53′
1
Cerezo Osaka Small Cerezo Osaka
Yokoyama 63′, 90’+5
2 Kawasaki Frontale Small Kawasaki Frontale
Nakamura 17′
Kobayashi 84′
2
Vissel Kobe Small Vissel Kobe
0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima Small Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Morisaki Kazuyuki 52′
1

(Matches played 1 December 2012)

J.League Division 1: Matchday 33 Table

(Sanfrecce romp to a 4-1 victory against visitors Cerezo Osaka in front of a season-high crowd of 32,724 at the Hiroshima Big Arch. The hosts took an insurmountable 3-0 lead before half-time as Yojiro Takahagi, Toshihiro Aoyama and Hisato Sato found the net, and Hironori Ishikawa rounded off the scoring five minutes after the re-start. Takuma Edamura reduced the deficit but not the outcome, and the defeat leaves Cerezo among one of four clubs who face a nervy final day of the 2012 season, two of whom will join Consadole Sapporo in Division 2 next year. Vegalta’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of struggling Albirex Niigata kept Albi’s hopes of a great escape intact, while ending the Sendai side’s chances of forcing the battle for into December. Sanfrecce claimed their first J.League title in history, and their first major trophy since 1970 in a former incarnation as Toyo Kogyo SC, and in the process became the sixth different club in the last eight seasons to become champions.)

Home Away
Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima (C) 33 10 2 5 32 16 8 5 3 30 18 +28 61
2 Vegalta Sendai 33 9 6 2 34 17 6 6 4 23 20 +20 57
3 Sagan Tosu 33 11 3 3 26 12 4 5 7 22 26 +10 53
4 Kashiwa Reysol 33 6 5 6 28 30 9 2 5 29 20 +7 52
5 Urawa Red Diamonds 33 7 6 3 21 18 7 4 6 24 24 +3 52
6 Nagoya Grampus 33 8 3 6 22 19 7 4 5 24 26 +1 52
7 Yokohama F-Marinos 33 6 7 3 23 15 6 7 4 20 18 +10 50
8 Kawasaki Frontale 33 7 2 8 25 26 7 5 4 24 22 +1 49
9 Shimizu S-Pulse 33 6 6 4 23 21 8 0 9 16 19 -1 48
10 FC Tokyo 33 7 1 8 24 20 6 5 6 17 22 -1 45
11 Kashima Antlers 33 7 3 6 34 21 4 7 6 14 22 +5 43
12 Jubilo Iwata 33 8 5 3 29 18 4 2 11 26 34 +3 43
13 Omiya Ardija 33 6 5 6 17 20 5 5 6 21 25 -7 43
14 Cerezo Osaka 33 6 2 8 24 26 5 6 6 21 25 -6 41
15 Vissel Kobe 33 5 3 8 19 20 6 3 8 22 29 -8 39
16 Gamba Osaka 33 4 7 6 36 35 5 4 7 30 28 +3 38
17 Albirex Niigata 33 2 6 8 11 20 7 4 6 14 13 -8 37
18 Consadole Sapporo (R) 33 3 2 12 13 34 1 0 15 11 50 -60 14

J.League Division 1: Matchday 27 Table

(After Simplico had scored a late winner for Cerezo Osaka on Matchday 26 against Shimizu S-Pulse, their resilience was once again on display as they came from two goals behind against Vissel Kobe to win the match 3-2. Cerezo were required to overcome the loss of Yusuke Maruhashi, who was deservedly sent off for a rash challenge on Takuya Nozawa with thirty minutes to play, and Simplicio netted twice before Takuma Edmura scored with a ferocious drive to give Cerezo the points. The result puts Levir Culpi’s side six points clear of the relegation places, and they now reside in the relative comfort of twelfth position in the table)

Home Away
Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 27 8 2 4 24 13 8 3 2 29 15 +25 53
2 Vegalta Sendai 27 7 5 1 28 12 6 4 4 19 16 +19 48
3 Urawa Red Diamonds 27 6 5 2 18 16 7 4 3 19 14 +7 48
4 Jubilo Iwata 27 8 4 1 28 14 4 2 8 24 25 +13 42
5 Sagan Tosu 27 9 3 2 19 6 2 5 6 15 21 +7 41
6 Shimizu S-Pulse 27 6 5 2 21 16 6 0 8 12 16 +1 41
7 Nagoya Grampus 27 7 1 5 19 16 5 4 5 19 25 -3 41
8 FC Tokyo 27 6 1 7 19 19 6 3 4 13 13 +0 40
9 Kashiwa Reysol 27 4 4 5 23 24 7 2 5 25 18 +6 39
10 Yokohama F-Marinos 27 5 6 2 18 13 4 6 4 15 16 +4 39
11 Kawasaki Frontale 27 5 2 7 17 20 6 4 3 20 18 -1 39
12 Cerezo Osaka 27 5 1 7 19 20 5 4 5 19 20 -2 35
13 Kashima Antlers 27 6 2 5 25 15 3 5 6 12 21 +1 34
14 Vissel Kobe 27 5 2 7 15 15 5 1 7 20 27 -7 33
15 Omiya Ardija 27 5 3 6 14 19 3 4 6 14 23 -14 31
16 Gamba Osaka 27 4 5 6 33 32 3 3 6 21 21 +1 29
17 Albirex Niigata 27 2 5 6 11 17 5 3 6 11 12 -7 29
18 Consadole Sapporo 27 3 1 10 11 29 0 0 13 9 41 -50 10

J.League Division 1: Matchday 27 Results

(Albirex Niigata score five goals within forty second-half minutes without reply to thrash Nagoya Grampus. The 5-0 victory marks the first time Albirex have scored five goals since they entered the top-flight, making this their biggest win in J.League Division One since their entry in 2004)

Shimizu S-Pulse
Kim H-S 70′, 90’+2
Senuma 84′
3 Vegalta Sendai
Sugai 14′
1
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Shimizu 30′
Sato 34′, 90’+5
Kazuyuki Morisaki 58′
4 Sagan Tosu
Toyoda 90’+2
1
FC Tokyo
Edmilson 54′
Vucicevic 85′
2 Jubilo Iwata
M Suganuma 9′
1
Albirex Niigata
Michael 56′, 64′
Own Goal 73′
Bruno Lopes 90′
Tsubouchi 90’+5
5 Nagoya Grampus
0
Vissel Kobe
Ogawa 7′
Soma 17′
2 Cerezo Osaka
Simplicio 22′, 73′
Edamura 81′
3
Omiya Ardija
0 Yokohama F-Marinos
0
Gamba Osaka
Leandro 25′, 90’+2
2 Kashima Antlers
Renato 9′
Dutra 38′
2
Kashiwa Reysol
Own Goal 15′
1 Urawa Red Diamonds
Umesaki 39′
Popo 90’+3
2
Kawasaki Frontale
Renato 80′
1 Consadole Sapporo
0

(Matches played 29 September 2012)