Friday, 2 April 2010

Niigata Preview

Regular readers - hi mum! - will know that our very own Agent Orange is hardly a big fan of the Nabisco Cup, but in his recent Ten Things To Hate About piece he neglected yet another negative aspect of Japanese professional football's least popular tournament: unless you're there at the game, it can be very difficult indeed to have a clear idea of what happened. It looks like about forty or so Squirrels fans made the midweek trip to Kyoto Sanga and it seems as if, he says hazily, they witnessed a battling display from an Ardija side that included rookie winger Jun Kanakubo playing a full ninety minutes on his debut.

As well as Kanakubo making his bow, another positive to come from the game was the equalising goal by Yoshihito Fujita, finishing well in space after Masahiko Ishikawa's terrific burst of speed down the right-hand side. An attack-minded 4-3-3 formation helped Ardija to overcome the absence of key players An Yong Hak and Mato Neretljak, brought to an end against a strong Sanga side Omiya's three-game losing streak and provided the team with its first goal from open play since the Cerezo Osaka match - all of which comes as a confidence boost ahead of a key league encounter tomorrow.

Opponents Albirex Niigata may have signed former Omiya captain and favourite Yoshiyuki Kobayashi over the winter, but generally the Swans look to have a weaker squad than in previous seasons. Even your well-respected pundits here at GGOA had them down as relegation candidates and their start to 2010 under new coach and ex-Squirrels player Hiroshi Kurosaki has been less than positive: no wins and only two goals scored in five league and cup matches. But with Ardija also low down in the standings, Saturday's game has to be regarded as an early opportunity for Jang Wae Ryong to take points from a direct rival.



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