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Okada the dreamer

1 Dec 2003(Mon)

Throughout his coaching career, Takeshi Okada has always come across as a deep thinker and a very pragmatic manager.

So I was a little surprised to hear a story he told me when I called in at the Yokohama F Marinos training ground at Higashi Totsuka this week.

Looking ahead to Saturday's home game against Jubilo Iwata, Oka-chan said he had dreamed of this situation even before the fixture list for the 2003 season had been published.

"I dreamed that we would be playing Jubilo in the last game of the season, competing for the championship," he said.

"We beat Jubilo to become champions, and there were a lot of people at Yokohama."

When the fixture list came out, Jubilo and Marinos opened the first stage at Shizuoka Ecopa, and met again on the final day of the second stage at International Stadium Yokohama.

"The dream is coming true," said Oka-chan.

"It's a very good position to be in, and we are happy to play in this situation."

In his dream, Okada said Marinos had beaten Jubilo by either 2-1 or 3-2. The important thing was, he said, for it to be an entertaining game with lots of good football and a few goals.

Looking at the top of the table going into this 15th and final second-stage game, Jubilo (26 points) hold a two-point advantage over second-placed Kashima Antlers (24), and Marinos and JEF United are a further point back with 23.

Like most J.League observers this week, I have tried to calculate all eventualities regarding the Marinos-Jubilo and Reds-Antlers games.

The most likely scenario, for me anyway, is for Marinos and Jubilo to draw, and for Antlers not to win, which would be enough for Jubilo to win the title.

I know Antlers have vast experience in this situation, but I think Reds will beat them with Emerson back from suspension. He is just too hot to handle.

When Emerson does not play, Reds are not the same force, because opposing defenders can concentrate more on marking Tanaka and Nagai, and Yamase supporting them from midfield.

Oka-chan's dream did not include Antlers, and neither did his preparations for the Jubilo game.

"We can't think about if Antlers or winning or losing. We have to concentrate only on winning our match against Jubilo. There is no pressure on us, because all we can do is our best. After that, only God knows what will happen."

A Marinos victory at home to Jubilo, together with a draw or defeat for Kashima, would give Oka-chan's men the title on goal difference. This is perfectly possible, too.

It is not such a dream after all.


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