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Oita's 'Holy Trinita' light the path

15 Sep 2008(Mon)

September 13, 2008: There can't be many times when Japan's 'team of the moment' comes from Kyushu.

But that's the case with Oita Trinita these days -- just one point off the pace as J1 resumes and safely in the final of the Nabisco Cup for the first time.

Under their young Brazilian manager Chamusca, Oita have enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2008, and will be attractive opposition for Urawa Reds at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Saturday afternoon.

Three young players in particular have caught the eye for the "Pride of Kyushu" -- goalkeeper Nishikawa, central defender Morishige and the attacking midfielder with the extravagant futsal tricks, Kanazaki. Let's call this trio of Nishikawa, Morishige and Kanazaki the "Holy Trinita", as they are lighting the way forward for the Kyushu faithful.

I rated Morishige as Japan's best player in the Beijing Olympics -- admittedly the competition was not strong -- and it was his rise in stature in the first half of the year that led to the shock omission of S-Pulse's Naoaki Aoyama, who had been Japan's best defender in qualifying.

Funnily enough, Morishige and Aoyama will now go head to head, so to speak, in the Nabisco Cup final at National Stadium on November 1.

Overall I am looking forward to an open, entertaining game between two teams not usually in the spotlight.

This can only be good for the game in general in Japan, rather than having the J.League super powers clean up in all competitions.

S-Pulse boss Kenta Hasegawa is one of the nice guys of the game, and, like Chamusca, has some good young Japanese players at his disposal.

What I also like about S-Pulse is their willingness to shoot from distance, in evidence again when Masaki Yamamoto put them on the road to victory in the second leg of the semi-final at Gamba.

There was an interesting incident in that second leg, when S-Pulse were 3-1 up and in control midway through the second half.

Marcos Paulo, a driving force in the middle of the park, stayed down after a challenge but was clearly not hurt seriously, if at all. In fact he was almost on his feet again when a teammate kicked the ball out of play on the left wing, in order for Marcos Paulo to receive treatment he did not need.

On the resulting throw-in, Gamba did not give the ball back to S-Pulse. They played on and tried to score, despite the booing of the S-Pulse fans.

I thought Gamba were absolutely right to keep the ball. It's not the decision of an S-Pulse player to stop the game; that is for the referee to decide.

How many times do you see a team that is leading kick the ball out for an "injured" teammate to receive treatment? Too many.

I think the referees are far too soft in these situations, and should wave play on as soon as the team that is leading tries to delay the match with such dubious tactics.

Hopefully there will be none of this nonsense in the Nabsico Cup final, and the players and coaches will respect the occasion and put on a good show for the big TV audience.

ends

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Comments

I'm always a little surprised when I read terms such as "Superpowers" or "Big Three" when applied to the J. League. Since the turn of the century there's been five different winners of the league (six if Oita, Nagoya or Kawasaki prevail this year), six different winners of the Emperor's Cup, and, after the final next month, seven different winners of the Nabisco Cup.

There are certainly one or two teams with far bigger fan bases than others, although even that's no measure of success or strength. 40000 have been turning up for years to watch Niigata not even come close to winning a major title.

I think it's too easy to suggest there are a couple of teams who dominate as per the Premier League. Kashima are the nearest there is to a consistent power, but even they hadn't won anything since 2002 before last year's double. With the notable exception of Antlers, teams seem to come and go in waves of a few years. Noone ever seems too strong for too long, and it's one of the things I love most about the J. League.

Posted by: Barry | 10/16/2008 at 12:12 PM

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