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Oswaldo's passion shines through

4 Dec 2008(Thu)

December 3, 2008: The season is not quite over yet, but you would have thought it was at Kashima Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The incredible last-gasp goal by Iwamasa, the scenes of celebrations that followed, the post-match festivities for Antlers' last home game of the season, and the behaviour of manager Oswaldo de Oliveira throughout; it certainly had the feel of a championship-winning day.

But this is the J.League. There is still one game to go, and recent history has shown that anything could happen on Saturday.
With a two-point lead over second-placed Nagoya Grampus and a vastly superior goal difference (12), Antlers basically need only a draw at Sapporo to retain their crown.

The situation is similar to last year's final day, when Reds, already stumbling, were humbled by Yokohama FC, already relegated, and Antlers roared past to win their fifth league crown at their home ground. I can't see Antlers slipping up this time, though. They have a cold professionalism about them, and can usually find a way to produce the result they need when they really need it. It might not be pretty, but they will close ranks and grind it out to achieve their goal. Saturday's game at Sapporo Dome gives them the perfect stage to demonstrate the "Antlersism" brand again and collect even more silverware.

One thing's for sure: Oswaldo will have them primed for battle, with a combination of high motivation and composure.

It will actually be the Brazilian coach's 58th birthday on Friday, December 5, so he is in a position to win a league championship just two days into his new year! His passion for the game and for success appears to be growing stronger, judging by events last Saturday at home to Jubilo.

He was so emotional after Iwamasa's goal and so proud after the victory that several Japanese players -- naturally more reserved, of course -- looked slightly uncomfortable trying to reciprocate his boisterous Brazilian behaviour. Not so much a case of "lost in translation", more like "lost in celebration".

I asked him about the message he screamed -- and I mean screamed -- to the fans after the game from the microphone on the pitch.

"I thanked God for keeping for me the greatest moments of my life, to live in Kashima," he said, now very calm. "We won the championship here last year with a combination of results on the last day, and today we could have lost the chance but we scored at the last moment. My players are wonderful. They try all the time and never give up. It is the behaviour of champions."


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