Category Archives: Japan National Team News

Nagatomo to Italy, Aishiteru Tokyo awakens

Don't call it a comeback, we've been here for years.

Actually, we've been really busy with, well everything. But, much like J-League this coming weekend, Aishiteru Tokyo is back and much like FCT will do our best in the “Post-W” struggle.

To start with, let's get the big news out of the way.

Nagatomo @ Cesena

Yuto Nagatomo, FCT and Japan's star side back, has signed a one-year loan deal with newly-promoted Serie A side A.C. Cesena. He will be the 9th Japanese player to ply his trade in Italy, and the first defender.

He will apparently be back in Japan to greet fans following Saturday's Vissel Kobe game, which should make the resumption of J-League play in Tokyo all the more memorable.

Best of luck to you, Yuto. Kick some Italian ass and be ready to lead Japan in four years in Brazil.

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Nao's World Cup dream shattered

After the group stage draw for the 2010 World Cup was made, placing Japan in a perilous group that includes European and African powerhouses Holland and Cameroon, and dangerous European darkhorses Denmark, Japan national team manager Takeshi Okada had two clear choices: play it safe and hope to not be disgraced, or go for broke and pick an attacking squad full of impact players who might make the difference in a tight group. So, after much anticipation about the make-up of the 23-man World Cup squad, Okada sat down and laid an egg at JFA HQ this afternoon.

Before I elaborate, here are the names Okada called out: GKs: Narazaki (Nagoya), Kawashima (Kawasaki), Kawaguchi (Iwata); DFs: Nakazawa (Yokohama), Tanaka (Nagoya), Komano (Iwata), Iwamasa (Kashima), YASUYUKI KONNO (FC Tokyo), YUTO NAGATOMO (FC Tokyo), Uchida (Kashima); MFs: S. Nakamura (Yokohama), Inamoto (Kawasaki), Endo (G. Osaka), K. Nakamura (Kawasaki), Matsui (Grenoble), Abe (Urawa), Hasebe (Wolfsburg), Honda (CSKA Moscow); FWs: Tamada (Nagoya), Okubo (Kobe), Yano (Niigata), Okazaki (Shimizu), Morimoto (Catania).

While we all congratulate Konno and Nagatomo on well-deserved and wholly-expected call-ups, simply put, the exclusion of FC Tokyo winger Naohiro Ishikawa (and, to a lesser extent, Gasmen striker Sota Hirayama) is a perfect example of a manager bottling a huge decision in favor of the safer option. I could be accused of an FC Tokyo bias, but hey, you haven't come here to find out if Morimoto made the squad, have you? While Nao has endured a relative lean spell so far this season (compared to his barnstorming play in '09 before his knee injury) and has seemed to be trying too hard to prove he was over his injury (and to impress Okada, no doubt), he represents something that the squad doesn't have – a game-changing winger with the pace to trouble any defence.

Honda should start on one wing, opposite Shunsuke, which leaves only Matsui on the bench as a potential impact side midfielder, as the other midfielders in the squad all play centrally for their clubs. Basically I think the choice of five out-and-out central midfielders is the major flaw in the 23, and Nao would've been the obvious choice as a more attacking threat,  instead of Abe, for example, who won't play (even in case of injury – he's the fifth central midfielder!).

In the case of Sota, I would definitely be guilty of a pro-FC Tokyo bias, but hear me out. Of the five strikers chosen, I believe three of them are basically the same type of player – Okazaki, Tamada and Okubo – and Tamada and Okubo have continually proven how useless they are at international level. To call Hirayama international class is laughable to some (many?) but as with Nao, he would offer something the squad lacks, a big man who could hold up the ball and link up with the likes of Okazaki and Morimoto.

So, rant over, and in conclusion, Okada's a bottler. Best of luck to Konno and Nagatomo, they'll do us proud but the manager's semi final pledge is looking even more daft after today.

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News Brief: FCT in running for Shunsuke Nakamura, Hirayama to start against Hong Kong?

The big news in Japanese football this morning is that Spanish side Espanola intends to loan Japanese NT star Shunsuke Nakamura (31) to a J.League club, but only until the summer in what could be essentially be a 3-month loan worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Transferred last summer to Espanola from Celtic in a major deal that saw Japan's most visible player in Europe step foot onto the continent, Nakamura has been unable to break through with the team after 6 months of league play in part due to a language barrier, inability to get fit, and various injuries. With the World Cup about five months away, Nakamura's main objective is to get back onto the field and prove his worth to Okada. This is especially true as strong “leader”-type players like Kashima's Ogasasawa have begun making appearances on the NT in Nakamura's absence.

According to Sponichi Annex, should this transfer go through Espanola would likely cancel a planned summer tour of Japan that would have netted nearly half a million Euros ($700,000) in revenue. As a result, the team would likely seek to recover some of that lost revenue in what would be a relatively high transfer fee.

Yokohama F. Marinos (the team Nakamura grew up playing with and what was thought to be his destination after Celtic) is in the lead to acquire the left-footed midfielder, but Kashima, Urawa, Gamba Osaka, and FC Tokyo are also named in the press as potential candidates.

Among fans, the general sentiment seems to be negative, with most criticism focusing on Nakamura's fitness and strength especially compared with Kajiyama (maybe I just have blinders on but I think we could do with less Kajiyama, yet I digress) and others in Tokyo's lineup. Another point on which I tend to agree on is that if Tokyo has the money to blow on a 3-month romp with an aging star arguably passing his prime, that money should instead be spent on a striker.

All involved parties apparently hope that the deal will go through in time for Nakamura to take the field on J.League's Opening Day. Yet given that our first match is against Yokohama, it does appear likely that one way or the other Nakamura will step foot on Ajinomoto Stadium's pitch.

In NT news, Sota Hirayama is likely to start for Japan in tonight's match versus Hong Kong. Japan has played 180 scoreless minutes, with Saturday's game against China ending in a shower of boos for the NT. Calls have been growing for Hirayama to start rather than appear as a mid-game substitution, and with Shimizu's Okazaki likely out of the match with a knee injury it appears that #20 may take the field at 7PM.  Meanwhile, former NT coach Philippe Troussier has criticized Hirayama for “trying too hard to control the game,” claiming that “[Hirayama] would be more effective with a simpler way of attacking.” Troussier, who let the NT from 1998 through the '02 World Cup, further stated that Hirayama “…has potential, but isn't at the top level yet.”

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Still alive!

A very late Happy New Year from Aishiteru Tokyo!

I haven’t been able to put as much time as I’d like towards updating the site over the winter break, but I’m still posting odds and ends on Twitter via @aishiterutokyo so if you’re a Twitter user feel free to follow!

It seems like the team officially starts activities on the 24th, which generally means a press conference with the new players (and hopefully a sponsor announcement, and a foreign striker, and ponies and rocket cars for all).

For now, news in brief:

Schedule News

-The team will have training camp in Miyazaki Prefecture this year rather than spending a million dollars going to Guam.

-Preseason Match: 2/27 at home vs. Albirex Niigata. Not quite as exotic as vs. Consadole Sapporo in Okinawa last year but hey.

-Season Opener: 3/6 at home vs. Yokohama F. Marinos. This will be the second time the two squads have met on opening day; the first was 10 years ago as FC Tokyo won its first J1 match 1-0 on a late goal by Tuto.

-Week 2: 3/13 away at Urawa Reds.  Again. Yippee. Given how much tickets go for I should just buy up as many as I can and make a profit.

Player Transfers

In: Morishige, Matsushita, and a bunch of kids from the youth squad

Out: Asari (retired), Fujiyama (to Consadole Sapporo), Kondo (to Consadole Sapporo), Bruno (unknown), Sahara (will return to Kawasaki Frontale), Moniwa (to Cerezo Osaka)

Rumors: A few still festering but nothing’s gained any traction beyond a day or two. As of right now the squad only has three experienced forwards (Akamine, Hirayama, and Suzuki) on the roster, plus I think one or two of the youth members.

NT News

-Hirayama is the new hero of Samurai Blue after scoring a hat trick to help a team of fresh faces come from behind in Yemen earlier this month.  He, along with Ishikawa, Tokunaga, Nagatomo, and Konno will be on the squad for Japan’s match against Venezuela on 2/2.

-Depending on call-ups, these 5 players may be with the NT up through March 3rd, giving Jofuku difficult circumstances under which to plan his lineup.

Catching Up: Osaka, Iwata, Nagoya, NT, Emperor's, yadda yadda

Why no, I haven't disappeared into a black hole, but September was an unusually busy month for me and October isn't shaping up to be much freer.  Here's what I've missed posting about:

-The Gamba Osaka match was pretty much exactly as you'd expect from an 0-0 draw; the team fought valiantly without Hirayama but it was pretty much a deadlock.  Not even going to bother posting highlights, nothing to see here.

-The first half of the Jubilo Iwata match was pretty much as lifeless as the Gamba match… then it got interesting in the second half, turning into a back-and-forth shootout that culminated in a come-from-behind 3-2 Tokyo victory.  Ishikawa, Nagatomo, and Akamine all contributed goals in the win.

-The Nagoya match was a much more fiercely contested match than expected.  Tokyo went up 2-1 in the first half on goals by Ishikawa and Suzuki but faced a resurgent Nagoya in the second half.  The team hit a roadblock when Teriyuki Moniwa sustained a severe cut under his eye after taking an inadvertent elbow from Aussie striker Kennedy.  Still, Tokyo prevailed and is currently in 7th place.
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-Four FCT players were named to the National Team for October's matches: Konno, Nagatomo, Ishikawa, and Tokunaga.  For some reason or another Ishikawa was left off the squad for the Hong Kong game, a 6-0 romping by Japan in which Nagatomo scored a goal and Tokunaga contributed an assist as a substitute.  Ishikawa finally found a starting role in last night's exhibition game against Scotland, a largely meaningless affair that Japan finally won 2-0

And now I'm off to Ajinomoto Stadium to watch anyone Jofuku deems healthy enough to play take on Kamatamare Sanuki in the Emperor's Cup Round 2.  I expect that both Sanuki fans making the trip will be very nice people.

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Player News: Akamine Stays, Cabore gets offer, Ishikawa goes for 6

Some player notes as we get ready for tomorrow night's match against Nagoya:

-Shingo Akamine has decided to reject Jubilo's offer for a transfer and stay with Tokyo, prompting an enthusiastic response from fans and teammates alike at Monday's practice. Akamine, the team's leading scorer last season as well as one of the top Japanese scorers, has joined in most of the games this season as a late-game substitute due to Hirayama's emergence as a starter.

-In this morning's editions of Sponichi it was reported that the team has recieved offers from clubs in Saudi Arabia and UAE for striker Cabore. The team is said to be fending these offers off by establishing steep penalities for breaking a contract mid-season, but some fear that Middle East club teams can reach deep into their pockets and pull out all the oil money they need to complete any deal. This season has already seen Middle Eastern clubs pillage J.League, with former Kobe manager Caio Junior and Nagoya striker Davi already heading to the region.

-While most of the press on Monday night had their cameras trained on Naohiro Ishikawa, a few cameras stayed pointed at the press box where NT coach Takeshi Okada was watching the game. Okada gave no indication of his reaction to the score, however, and following the game he merely commented that Ishikawa “look good” and that he wasn't going to make any rash decisions in terms of selecting members.
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With Sunday's goal, Ishikawa has scored in 5 games in a row and has tied club legend Amaral (who, incidentally, has come out of retirement to play with JFL side FC Kariya) for the team record. He can claim his own place in the record books if he scores tomorrow night.

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News from Guam Camp and the NT

First the bad news: because of poor performance in the Guam training camp, starting GK Hitoshi Shiota returned on Friday to Japan for a medical examination, which was conducted in Saitama on Saturday. The examination diagnosed heatstroke and glandular swelling, and a second examination has been scheduled for a few days from now.

Now the good news. Two FC Tokyo players have been named to the team for the 2/4 Kirin Challenge Cup match against Finland and the World Cup qualifier against Australia on 2/11. DF Yuto Nagamoto and MF Yasuyuki Konno will be wearing NT blue on both dates.

Season’s Greetings

Happy Kwanzichrismukkah to all of you readers out there, whoever you may be.

Couple brief bits of news:

-Reserve forward Kouhei Shimoda has been selected to Japan’s U-20 squad for a “International Goodwill Tournament” to be held in Qatar this January.  Can’t seem to find any details on what the tournament’s about, but hey, good on you Kouhei!

-Midfielder Yinka Adedeji, who has played for Nigeria’s U-20 team and served as a backup player to the Beijing Olympics, began a 4-day practice tryout with FC Tokyo on the 24th.  He is currently attached to Nigerian second-division squad Shooting Stars S.C.  Should FCT choose to sign him, the young striker (born in 1985 or 1989 depending on the data I’ve found) could prove to be a good replacement for Emerson, who will not be resigned for the 2009 season.  His presence could also inspire other J.League squads to take a closer look at African players, who are a rare signed on Japanese pitches.  The Yomiuri Shinbun reported his display of a good passing sense in a squad mini-game.

In Emperor’s Cup news, Gamba Osaka stumbled to a 2-1 upset victory against heavily favored Nagoya Grampus.  Though the team came out strong in the first half with two goals (one scored by former FCT striker Lucas), they struggled to hold back Nagoya in the second half as they were obviously worn out from their Club World Cup matches held just three days earlier.  Gamba will face a well-rested Yokohama F. Marinos squad on Monday at Kokuritsu, just after FC Tokyo and Kashiwa Reysol finish their duel at Ecopa Stadium.  Nagoya’s loss also dashed cold water on the hopes of Oita supporters; their team no longer has an outside shot at an ACL bid.

That’s all from Tokyo!  I’ve got 6 days of concerts ahead of me and will be at Countdown Japan 08-09 starting from the 28th so I sasdly won’t be able to watch either match.  Here’s to an FC Tokyo victory, and hopefully a celebratory blog post on New Year’s Day!

[Recaps] FC Tokyo breaks winless streak of 8 games vs. J.League opponents

It’s been two months since FC Tokyo won a game against a J.League opponent.  Two long months in which fans began to question how well their team, which had performed far above anyone’s expectations during the first half of the season, would turn out to do in the end.

Following the break for the National Team qualifiers, FC Tokyo drew vs Chiba, lost against Oita in a Nabisco Cup match, lost away at Urawa, lost away at Kashima, drew at home against Osaka, drew away at Kyoto, drew at home against Yokohama, then tied away at Oita (in the second Nabisco Cup match, eliminating themselves after the quarterfinals for a second year in a row).  8 matches total, 6 of them league fixtures, with a grand total of 7 goals scored (one in each except for a 2-0 shutout against Urawa).  4 points gained in 6 league matches.  Things were not looking pretty.

Fortunately, in a Division 1 where the top 10 teams in the league are separated by 6 points, anything can and will happen.  Today, problem child Hirayama proved to be decisive for Tokyo, scoring the lone goal of the match as they held on to beat Nagoya Grampus 1-0.  The top three teams in the league failed to get one win between them, resulting in an ever-tightening J1 ladder, in stark contrast to J2 where Sanfrecce Hiroshima is running away with the championship leaving everyone else to fight for the second automatic promotion spot followed by a place in the Promotion/Relegation Cup.

Unfortunately for FC Tokyo, its abundance of young talent is proving costly in August.  The 2008 Beijing Olympiad began yesterday, and two FC Tokyo players are on Japan’s U-23 squad: DF Nagatomo and MF Kajiama.  The two, known as pivotal parts of FC Tokyo’s offense, will be sorely missed, particularly against Urawa this coming weekend.  Tickets in both the home and away supporter’s sections have been sold out and odds are (as is usual with Urawa matches) that the stadium will be at capacity (50-something thousand give or take) with security likely prepared to deal with altercations between the passionate supporters of both clubs.

I, for what it’s worth, will be coming to the stadium straight from Comiket 74 where I’ll be doing my yearly coverage for PTD Magazine, and going straight from the stadium to a friend’s rock DJ event, which means I pretty much won’t sleep (unless it’s on the train) for about 24 hours.  Should be a blast either way.

[Match Preview] 05.24 FC Tokyo vs Tokyo Verdy @ Ajinomoto Stadium

It’s pouring buckets outside and is supposed to continue doing so well into tomorrow, with Yahoo! Japan predicting a 50% chance of rain at kickoff.  It will be wet, it will be humid, the game technically doesn’t matter, and the fallout from the clusterfuck at last week’s Urawa/Gamba match may mean that stadium security will be a bit too overzealous in making sure that peace is kept between the two supporter groups, but it will be a Tokyo Derby nonetheless.

What to write… honestly, I don’t even know, I was in Yoyogi last night and the night before to shoot at Zher the Zoo and my ears still haven’t regained their full capabilities.  Let’s see…

-This is a Nabisco Cup qualifier, so, as I said, it doesn’t really matter when it comes to J1.  Currently Shizuka is in the lead with 7 points, followed by FCT and Jubilo with 4 each (FCT leads on goals scored?) and Verdy trailing with two points.  An FC Tokyo win would undoubtedly eliminate Verdy from the Cup.

-If you want to talk momentum, FC Tokyo is coming off of a much-needed win in Jubilo after losing two straight 1-0 decisions to the home crowd and squandering a Golden Week Spring that could have easily found them in first place.  However, in a “fortuitous” series of results, none of the other teams at the top of the standings were really able to capitalize on anything, leaving FC Tokyo in 3rd place, three points behind Nagoya and Urawa.  Verdy has recovered from its poor form early on in the season, going 4-1-1 in the last 6 games and rising to 11th place at 17 points.  Given that the difference between 4th place (Kashiwa and Kawasaki, 20 points) and 16th place (Jubilo) is only 6 points, we could (and most likely will) see a totally different order by the time the season ends.

-Verdy will be at full strength for the game because their team is nothing but foreigners and old men (FC Nippon indeed!).  However, FC Tokyo has 3 players who are wearing the Samurai Blue for the national team and won’t be in the lineup (Kajiyama is w/ the U-23 team in Europe, while Nagatomo and Konno are with the A-team in Japan)  The pitch condition will blow, expect to see the Green Gaijin Gang get substituted or warm the bench for Verdy while FCT will give some of its younger players a chance to start – possibly Yusuke, Otake… who knows.

-Who knows how security will be as a result of the incident between Gamba and Urawa last weekend… personally I don’t think either set of fans feels like starting shit in the rain.  I hope not.

Soilent Green has some random facts about the derby, including player participation and such as well as duly noting that Blue/Red has owned Green for the majority of the rivalry.  In an unrelated matter from one of his previous posts he admits that I Am Right.  Not that we didn’t already know this, of course.

And that’s all for now because I’m damned tired.  See you tomorrow at Ajisuta!