The Mito curse strikes again! FC Gifu 0-2 Mito Hollyhock

FC Gifu were beaten at home by Mito Hollyhock for the third year in a row on Sunday night in a game that lacked any real spark.

FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Shuto Tanaka, Abe, Kitani, Iwasaki, Masuyama, Henik, Takachi, Kleiton, Namba, Endo

Mito were the better team in the first half of the first half, forcing a few half chances. Kawaguchi got down to palm away a Funatani shot from distance; Henik cut out a dangerous looking cross from Baba; and Kawaguchi blasted the ball against one of his centre backs (possibly Abe) and was lucky to see the ball roll wide of the post.

Gifu started to come into the game as the half wore on, with Junki Endo, Gifu’s precocious 19 year old forward, involved in everything good. He led a counter attack that was desperately defended by the visitors. He then manouvered himself into space in the area before forcing Mito ‘keeper Kasahara into a smart save. Endo then went close again right before the half time whistle when side-footed a half volley just over the bar. Gifu would have been the happier side going into the break, and would have surely looked to have kicked on in the second half. But…..

The second half was a really flat affair. No urgency, and a glaring lack of quality haunted both sides and it was no surprise that the first goal of the game was a very scrappy/lucky one. Kohei Uchida laid the ball off to substitute Kenta Nishioka around 30 yards and his shot, which seemed destined for Kawaguchi’s arms, took a wicked deflection off Shuto Tanaka and the ball ended up in the net. Tetsuji Hashiratani’s side made the points safe 10 minutes from the end with a goal that was out of place (like a gem on a coal face) in this game due to its class. Keiji Takachi was dispossessed in midfield, Mito broke and the ball found its way to Keisuke Funatani who weighed up his options before clipping a delightful semi-chip past the stranded Kawaguchi.

Game over, although there was time for Hiroaki Namba to head wide from 3 yards out which kind of summed up this performance.

During half time at every FC Gifu home game, the local TV station provides a segment called “ラモスの言葉” – Ramos’ words. Today’s half time words were very prophetic:

  • できないからって諦めたらアカン。できるまで続ける ことが格好いいんだことなんだ” – “Never give up. If it is still possible to achieve, you must keep trying.”

FC Gifu would do well to adhere to that phrase when they make the long trip to Kyushu to face high-flying Giravanz Kitakyushu next Sunday afternoon.

FC Gifu v Mito Hollyhock – preview

Team news

The news from the training ground (and El Golazo) is that Henik has picked up an injury and will be struggling for Sunday. Also, I’m not too sure about the status of top scorer Nazarit, who missed the Jubilo game. Other than that, there are no suspensions or other new injuries to worry about.

My predicted FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi. Abe, Shuto Tanaka, Kitani, Mori, Masuyama, Higa, Takachi, Kleiton, Namba, Endo

Recent form (last 5 games, most recent first)

  • FC Gifu – LWDLL
  • Mito Hollyhock – LDDWL

Top scorers

  • FC Gifu – Nazarit, 14; Hiroaki Namba, 11
  • Mito Hollyhock – Makito Yoshida, 10

Previous meetings in Gifu

  • 2009  FC Gifu 3-3 Mito Hollyhock
  • 2010  FC Gifu 1-0 Mito Hollyhock
  • 2011  FC Gifu 2-1 Mito Hollyhock
  • 2012  FC Gifu 0-1 Mito Hollyhock
  • 2013  FC Gifu 1-4 Mito Hollyhock

Overall J.League record

  • Gifu wins – 7
  • Mito wins – 5
  • Draws – 3

What happened last time?

Back in May, FC Gifu looked as if they were on the way to an impressive win as goals from Nazarit & Keiji Takachi had them 2-1 up with 10 minutes, but strikes from Makito Yoshida & and additional time one from Keisuke Funatani gave the hosts an unlikely win.

Update…..

Sorry for the lack of activity recently. I’ve been dealing with a cold that won’t go away, an achilles injury that is very painful at times and a heavy work schedule. A hat trick that no-one wants!! Let me update on some things happening around the club.

  • Defeat at Jubilo

Last weekend Gifu were beaten 3-1 by Hiroshi Nanami’s promotion chasing Iwata side. It could have been oh-so different had Masuyama not hit the bar before Jubilo got their first goal. But, that was the way it went last. FC Gifu played really well at times, but mental errors again cost them. Hiroaki Namba was once again on the scoresheet for Gifu

  • Mito calling

Mito Hollyhock visit Nagaragawa tomorrow for a spooky hallowe’en themed game. More on that in the match preview.

  • Matsumoto invasion!

Tickets for the away section behind the goal for the November 15th showdown are sold out. Yamaga might be promoted on that day if results so dictate. One thing is for sure, given that it is Gifu’s last home game of the season, there will be an electric atmosphere.

  • J1 challenge progress

FC Gifu’s J1 challenge support is going well. As of this week, volunteers & staff had collected 38,004 signatures and raised ¥1,397,521. The push will continue through the end of the year.

FC Gifu 1-0 Montedio Yamagata

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Not without its drama, FC Gifu claimed an important win against play-off chasing Montedio Yamagata.

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FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Abe, Nakamura, Mori, Tanaka, Sudo, Miyazawa, Masuyama, Ota, Namba, Nazarit

The home side were without the suspended midfield duo of Keiji Takachi & Henik, and so it was Yusuke Sudo & Miyazawa who were to patrol the middle of the park.

In the first half, Montedio played like a team who had eyes for the play-offs and they had some very good chances to score. Matsuoka was first up, controlling the ball in the area from a long throw before smashing a shot against the underside of the bar. Next, Kawaguchi denied Yamazaki in a one-on-one situation. Gifu had the final chance of the half, but Nazarit’s free-kick was saved by Montedio ‘keeper Yamagishi.

In the second half, the game evened up a bit with both sides looking for the win.

A huge moment of controversy came in the 58th minute, and it involved Masashi Miyazawa. The ex-Oita midfielder was dispossessed on the edge of the area by Diego but as he fell to the ground he stopped the ball rolling into the area with his hand. While everyone else stopped, Diego retrieved the ball and smacked it into the net, only for the referee to disallow it having apparently already blown for the free kick. The subsequent free-kick was wasted, and Miyazawa was replaced soon after by Taisuke Mizuno.

Kleiton Domingues was next to come on, and this substitution started to give Gifu more control as he, Mizuno & Sudo began to force the issue. Gifu almost took the lead in the 68th minute, but Hiroaki Namba couldn’t keep his header in the face of severe pressure from Yamagishi. Yamagata brought on Romero Frank to try and counter the influence of Kleiton & Mizuno, but Gifu still held the upper hand. Yusuke Sudo had a couple of efforts from outside the box, and Yamagishi made a good save from a Nazarit header before FC Gifu finally broke the deadlock in the 77th minute.

A long throw from Masuyama bounced over the head of Nazarit and into the path of strike partner Hiroaki Namba, who had his back to the goal. He swiveled and volleyed over Yamagishi and off the underside of the bar. It was close, but the ball was just over the line although Nazarit removed any doubt by smashing in the loose ball.

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But, as FC Gifu supporters know, Gifu are vulnerable when they are winning – and Montedio didn’t waste any time trying to prove that vulnerability. In the last 10 minutes Miyasaka headed wide from 6 yards out, Hiroki Bandai had a goal ruled out for offside and Romero Frank somehow shot wide from close range. Masuyama nearly made the game safe for the home side, but Yamagishi produced a stunning one-handed save to deny him.

The final whistle was greeted with huge relief from the majority of the 5512 inside the Nagaragawa stadium, although the traveling Yamagata fans will probably feel they deserved something from the game.

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FC Gifu played well, especially Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi & Shuto Tanaka who helped keep the second clean sheet in a row. But, once again, it was Yusuke Sudo who drove this team performance. He was superb, and he was almost everywhere on the pitch. He has a drive & energy that doesn’t seem to wane as the game goes on. If he keeps up this level of performance, he is someone that Gifu can build their team around for the rest of the season and beyond.

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The schedule doesn’t get much easier as Gifu’s next appointment is with Hiroshi Nanami’s Jubilo Iwata. It will take another epic defensive display to keep Jubilo quiet, but Kawaguchi will be out for revenge. Should be an interesting afternoon at the Yamaha stadium.

To boooooo or not to boooooo? Is it taboo?

Ahem….

Two weeks ago, FC Gifu surrendered a 2-0 lead with 15 minutes to go against Roasso Kumamoto to lose 3-2 in what was probably the worst 15 minutes of football of the year. After the game the players, who were probably still in disbelief at what had transpired, went and did their usual bowing in front of the fans. Gifu have lost at home on (too) many occasions this year – but this was different. When they arrived at their first point of call they got a smattering of applause and a few “Ganbatte” calls (Ganbatte means – try your hardest in Japanese). But when they arrived in front of the core supporters, the Vamos Zone, the players were roundly, and very loudly, booed.

I was in the main stand, which is opposite the Vamos Zone, but I could hear it very clearly. The people around me expressed shock as it is very uncommon for this to happen. Gifu, in my time supporting the club, have been……well, pretty bad. But the understanding has usually been that the players try their best every game and if they lost it wasn’t much of a surprise. But as I said before, this was different. The team has lost many points at home this year from winning positions and I think the fans on the day had seen enough of it.

After the game, I got two diametrically opposed viewpoints from two senior people associated with the club (names that I won’t reveal).

Person A:

  • “I’m glad the fans booed the team. The players need to understand that supporters pay good money to watch them and that they will not be satisfied with performances like the one we saw today. Across the world, if a team loses a 2-0 lead at home, the supporters will boo. Why should Japan be any different? I think they need this kind of feedback, and if they had any understanding of football supporters, they would have expected it. If you accept the praise of the fans when you win, you should accept criticism when it is deserved.”

Person B:

  • “Of course I can understand the supporters’ feelings – I feel deflated too. But the fans have to realize that the we need the players onside with them. We as a club can’t, and don’t want to, move forward with a disconnect between the players & fans. There is so much positivity surrounding the club these days: the fund-raising, the high attendances, the star players, the increased publicity. But we need everyone pulling in the same direction. If you look how we’ve come just in the last year you can see that we are making progress. There will be difficult points along the road, but we need to face these difficulties as one, not divided. We can’t afford a situation where the players start to not care about the fans. This club has to be as one.”

To be honest, I can see both points of view. No-one likes to be booed, but in football it is the only feedback you are going to get from supporters. And as person A said, they will have (or should have) known it was coming. The selling point for FC Gifu, for me, has been the connection between the supporters & players. They openly mingle at training sessions and they players & staff are approachable wherever they may be. As person B says, we need that to continue for the club to move forward. Numerous times this year I’ve seen players in J1 teams openly “diss” their own fans after they weren’t happy with their “feedback”. I’d hate for that to happen at the Nagaragawa. I’d be interested in what other people think on this issue.

Ultimately, the only way to escape booing is not to let your performance warrant it – and that is what the focus should be.

Hopefully we don’t hear it tomorrow…..

FC Gifu v Montedio Yamagata

After holding firm in the face of Shonan Bellmare onslaught last week, FC Gifu host another fired up, promotion chasing side.

Team news:

FC Gifu have to deal with the suspension of midfield lynchpin Keiji Takachi who picked up his fourth booking of the year in Hiratsuka last week. Henik will also serve the final match of his suspension, meaning Gifu’s midfield will be undermanned. Luckily for Gifu, Yusuke Sudo put in an heroic shift last week and looks well suited to the midfield battle. I expect him to start. Unfortunately, Yuki Fukaya suffered a thigh strain last week and will be out for 2-3 weeks.

My FC Gifu predicted line-up: Kawaguchi, Abe, Nakamura, Mori, Masuyama, Mizuno, Miyazawa, Sudo, Higa, Endo, Nazarit.

Visitors Montedio Yamagata come into the game in good form, with only 2 defeats in their last ten, a run which includes five wins – highlighted by a 4-0 thumping of Kamatamare Sanuki last week.

Montedio, when I’ve seen them this year, seem to have a pretty fluid 4-2-3-1 formation (sometimes remodeled into a 4-3-2-1 when necessary). Up top, they seem to pretty interchangable with Diego, Yuki Nakashima and Masato Yamazaki all taking turns to be the “one top”. Behind them is the ever reliable Masaki Miyasaka – the man who makes Montedio tick. Expect him to try and dominate the midfield tomorrow. This is not team with any superstars, just full of hard working players.

Recent form (last 5 games, most recent first):

  • FC Gifu: DLLDD
  • Montedio Yamagata: WDWLW

Top scorers:

  • FC Gifu: Nazarit, 14
  • Montedio Yamagata: Diego, 12

Recent games in Gifu:

  • 2008 (1): FC Gifu 2-1 Montedio Yamagata
  • 2008 (2): FC Gifu 1-2 Montedio Yamagata
  • 2012: FC Gifu 0-0 Montedio Yamagata
  • 2013: FC Gifu 1-1 Montedio Yamagata

Overall J.League record:

  • Gifu wins: 2
  • Yamagata wins: 3
  • Draws: 3

Match information:

  • J.League division 2, matchday 35: FC Gifu v Montedio Yamagata
  • Venue: Nagaragawa Stadium, KO 4pm
  • Broadcast: Live on Skapa Premium service
  • Weather: Clear, sunny, high of 29°C