Friday, 11 September 2009

S-Pulse Preview

At last. After the break in the J1 schedule for the international friendlies in Holland, this weekend it's back to business for Japan's top flight clubs, the Mighty Squirrels making the trek down to Shizuoka for a lunchtime kick-off tomorrow against fourth-placed Shimizu S-Pulse. It's been a frustrating break for Ardija fans, coming as it did off the back of perhaps the greatest-ever performance and result in the club's history in the last match, at home to the best team in the country... 3-1 against Kashima Antlers. Ah, it'll be a while before I'm tired of writing that.

He may not have found the target against Kashima, but the early signs are that in Rafael Omiya have unearthed a potential J-League star. The tall Brazilian adds a genuine attacking threat to the team, putting opposition defenders under pressure with his speed, awareness and eye for goal. With only four matches under his belt, Rafael has brought about the equaliser against Jubilo Iwata, scored against JEF United, provided a delicious lay-off for Kohei Tokita to fire home against the Antlers and gone close to scoring on at least three other occasions.

Not bad for a player somewhat overlooked in his arrival at the club by the signing of Dudu. And as Agent Orange wrote after the Kashima game, Squirrels fans have now had a glimpse of how their team can play - with pace, movement and no little strength, well enough to challenge the best that Japan can offer. The question is of course whether Jang Wae Ryong can get another display of comparable quality from his team following the two-week gap, against a side fighting to get into the ACL places.

In the short term, Ardija will be hoping that S-Pulse's current star Shinji Okazaki is rested or at least fatigued from his trip to Europe with the national side. But looking ahead, it's crucial that Omiya make a more permanent step up in quality, given that their remaining fixtures are difficult indeed and the threat of relegation has not disappeared. All in all, it's been a long break for Jang and the Squirrels. Was the win over Kashima a one-off? On Saturday, we have the chance to find out for sure.



Furtho 12 September 2009 at 04:58  

Yahoo predicted line-up for the S-Pulse game:

GK Ezumi
DF Tsukamoto
DF Kataoka
DF Neretljak
DF Hato
MF Fujimoto
MF Kanazawa
MF Hashimoto
MF Uchida
FW Rafael
FW Ishihara

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