Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fukuoka Preview

So the points are in the bag. Safe. Untouched. On Tuesday it was confirmed that the J-League had responded to Ardija's three-year inflation of crowd attendance figures not by deducting what could only have been an arbitrary number of points at a crucial stage in the season, but with a fine of 20 million yen (at today's exchange rate about $240k or £150k). In the wider context of a relegation battle and a busy match schedule, there's not much more that can be said at the moment other than that this constitutes good news - a punishment of the club and its (mis)management, rather than of the players and the supporters.

Debate regarding possible repercussions is for another time, because on Wednesday Ardija will participate in probably the least welcome match of the year as Avispa Fukuoka visit NACK5 for an Emperor's Cup Fourth Round tie. It's sad that this historic tournament has been reduced by insensitive fixture scheduling to not much more than an irritation, but the fact is that Omiya have more significant matters to attend to in the league - the next two J1 games could make or break their year - while Avispa are focused on a J2 promotion campaign that is similarly in the balance. An energy-sapping, attention-distracting midweek trip to Kanto is the very last thing that the Kyushu Wasps want.

In thinking about the Cup game it has to be acknowledged that Omiya coach Jun Suzuki may field a weakened team, reasoning that fresher players are more likely to be able to perform better against relegated Kyoto Sanga on Saturday and then in the six-pointer with Vissel Kobe next Tuesday. The Squirrels will already be without central defender Shusuke Tsubouchi and midfielder Shin Kanazawa through injury, although the situation regarding the suspension of Lee Ho is unclear. Almost certain is that Takuya Aoki is facing the most important month of his Squirrels career to date; An Yong Hak may also return to first-team action.

The squad seem to have emerged from the defeat at Nagoya Grampus in a reasonably positive frame of mind. The disappointment was that Nagoya's goals came about due to poor Omiya defensive organisation at set plays, but Yuki Fukaya and Mato Neretljak coped well with the speed and mobility of Keiji Tamada. And although Grampus enjoyed the majority of possession in the second half, Ardija keeper Takashi Kitano was rarely called into serious action. At the other end, we here at GGOA felt distinctly smug as the combination of Lee Chun Soo, Rafael and Naoki Ishihara produced the best bit of football in the match and a good equalising goal. Onwards and upwards, Squirrels.

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