Monday 21 February 2011

Grampus and Antlers gear up to commence post-Qatar domestic campaign

Defending J. League champions Nagoya Grampus will kick off the 2011 Japanese season on Saturday afternoon as they take on Emperor’s Cup winners Kashima Antlers in the Fuji Xerox Super Cup at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Clubs and supporters have had little time to catch their breath after the close season was shortened by a glorious Asian Cup campaign for the Japan national team in Qatar, and enlivened further by a rush of domestic and international transfers.

The highest profile move saw Yuto Nagatomo seal a loan switch from Cesena to reigning European champions Internazionale just 48 hours after setting up the winning goal for Tadanari Lee in the Asian Cup final. Hajime Hosogai has joined 2. Bundesliga side FC Augsburg on loan from German giants Bayer Leverkusen after leaving Urawa Reds at the end of last year. Tomoaki Makino has departed Sanfrecce Hiroshima for FC Köln, while Shinji Okazaki was finally able to make his debut for VfB Stuttgart last Thursday after a protracted transfer from Shimizu S-Pulse.

Heightened interest from overseas clubs will add a further element of unpredictability to an already highly competitive J1 division, but Grampus will at least begin the defence of their crown with the bulk of last year’s squad. Brazilian midfielder Magnum has been replaced by Japan international Jungo Fujimoto from Shimizu, while exciting young forward Kensuke Nagai starts life as a pro having excelled at last year’s Asian Games.

By contrast, Kashima will look to regain the title they won for three seasons in a row up to 2009 without veteran forward Marquinhos, who departs for Vegalta Sendai after 80 goals in four seasons. 24-year-old striker Carlão arrives after impressing with União de Leiria of Portugal, while fellow Brazilian Alex and Japan midfielder Takuya Honda have been recruited from JEF United Chiba and Shimizu respectively.

Last season’s J1 runners-up, Gamba Osaka, pulled off a minor coup in persuading former Internacional striker Adriano to extend his stay in the city after scoring 19 goals last season for local rivals Cerezo. Midfielder Kim Seung-Yong joins from K-League side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, but Gamba will look to youth to replace the likes of left-back Michihiro Yasuda – now at Vitesse Arnhem in Holland – and released forwards Lucas and Cho Jae-Jin.

Cerezo look set for a hard time repeating last year’s third-place finish after midfielders Amaral and Akihiro Ienaga followed Adriano out of the exit door, with Ienaga signing for Real Mallorca of Spain. Much will be expected of young Brazilian forward Rodrigo Pimpão and South Korean international midfielder Kim Bo-Hyung, who spent 2010 on loan at Oita Trinita.

Shimizu’s list of departures is lengthened by the names of Frode Johnsen, who returns to Norway with Odd Grenland, and Akihiro Hyodo, who joins J2 champions Kashiwa Reysol. Previous Iran manager Afshin Ghotbi will look to 31-year-old former Japan striker Naohiro Takahara for goals after six months in Korea with Suwon Samsung Bluewings, while midfielders Alex Brosque and Daigo Kobayashi also arrive from Australian side Sydney FC and Greek outfit Iraklis respectively.

Elsewhere, Urawa will look to bounce back from a disappointing ninth-place finish with the arrivals of creative midfielder Marcio Richardes and centre-back Mitsuru Nagata from Albirex Niigata. Kawasaki Frontale have taken Yusuke Tanaka and Koji Yamase from Yokohama F Marinos in exchange for Hiroyuki Taniguchi, who is joined at the Nissan Stadium by former Tokyo Verdy and FC Tokyo striker Masashi Oguro.

Newly promoted Kashiwa, Ventforet Kofu, and Avispa Fukuoka have each added several players with J1 experience as they look to readjust to the greater challenge of top flight football.

posted by Ben Mabley at 19:12 | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Minutecast | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする
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