Free entry day*

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*If you live in Gifu city, that is.

 

This Saturday sees the yearly running of FC Gifu’s 岐阜市民全員無料デー (roughly translated as “free entry for Gifu residents day”)

This started two years ago and was the brainchild of previous club president Satoshi Onda. He wanted to bring a sense of community and pride to the club, and decided to reward/encourage local people to come to the stadium – obviously with the view of getting them to come back as paying supporters.

The first time it happened was for a home game against V-Varen Nagasaki in 2014, a game which Gifu drew 1-1 in front of a bumper crowd of 13,016.

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The second installment was last year when Gifu faced Thespa Kusatsu Gunma on a similarly hot & sunny day, and the result this time was also a 1-1 draw, and the attendance this time was 8,517

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The back stand for the 2015 visit of ThespaKusatsu Gunma

So, can we expect another 1-1 draw when Montedio Yamagata come to visit on Saturday? Well, after a bad start, Yamagata have slowly been creeping up the table and are quietly on a six match unbeaten run, a run that has consisted of three draws and three wins (against Okayama, Tokyo Verdy & Gunma).

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Gifu, on the other hand, are coming off a 2-3 loss at JEF United, and still have injury concerns. Leo Mineiro is still a doubt, and shun Nogaito was forced off in the dying minutes against Chiba with what looked like a knee injury so his status will be one to monitor leading up to the game. One bit of good news for Ruy Ramos is that Leonardo Rocha will be available again after serving a one match suspension for picking up four yellow cards.

Hopefully it will be a good game, and although I like Yamagata (and especially goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi) a repeat of FC Gifu’s 1-0 win the last time these two teams met will do me very nicely indeed.

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#WeAreGifu

 

Round-up

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It has been a while! Apologies for the break – real life takes it out of us all at points. But it doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for FC Gifu! And nor should it yours.

So, to try and get back in the groove, here is a round of Gifu’s latest games – starting with the May 8th game at home to Shimizu S-Pulse.

FC Gifu 1-1 Shimizu S-Pulse

In the final “Golden Week” fixture, Gifu got off to the worst possible start as Shimizu’s star striker Genki Omae curled in a free-kick after just four minutes. Shimizu had plenty of chances to add to that lead during a dominating opening 20 minutes, and Gifu were indebted to the fine form of Yoshinari Takagi who made some excellent saves.

Gifu drew level in somewhat controversial circumstances when Masanori Abe headed in a free-kick – although Shimizu were convinced that Tatsuya Tanaka had the final touch from an offside position.

In the second half, Gifu were the better team and nearly snatched the win in additional time but Yuto Ono’s shot was saved at point blank range.

This game showed real positive signs for Gifu. Evandro played well, but it was livewire winger/forward Tatsuya Tanaka who stole the show. His fearless running and electric pace made life hell for the S-Pulse full backs and it was in that game that his potential was made visible to all.

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Fagiano Okayama 0-1 FC Gifu

With a backs to the wall performance, and a man-of-the-match performance from the crossbar, Gifu sneaked a win at the CityLight stadium, Okayama.

Opponents Okayama were flying high at the time, threatening to make good on their potential (as they threaten to do each year) and they bombarded Gifu’s goal from the off with ex-Gifu forward Yuki Oshitani looking very much in the mood to put one over his former club. Goals were disallowed and woodwork rattled before a Gifu breakaway led to the opening goal, ten minutes into the second half.

Tatsuya Tanaka put on the burners to outpace the Okayama defence and forced ‘keeper Nakabayashi into bringing him down in the area. Evandro stepped up to slam the resulting penalty in to the bottom corner to give Gifu a narrow lead.

After that, it was a defensive stand – led by the outstanding Yoshinari Takagi. He made several key saves and catches, and organized the defence superbly to help Gifu leave with all three points.

 

JEF United Chiba 3-2 FC Gifu

If I’ve praised Gifu’s defence in the previous games, they have to take a bit of stick for this one. Two goals in the first ten minutes put paid to Gifu’s chances in this game, both the result of defensive slips (quite literally, in the case of Go Iwase in the build up to the second goal).

Gifu rallied in the second half, and Daiki Tamori – making his return from injury – headed in a cross in the 50th minute to give Gifu hope, but a goal from Chiba’s Kazuki Nagasawa looked to have extinguished that hope in the 84th minute. But Shun Nogaito’s exquisite through ball found Keiji Takachi to finish in the 86th minute to renew the belief, and substitute Ryo Takiya almost leveled it in injury time, but his headed came agonizingly off the bar.

Defensive frailties the undoing of Gifu again. An unfortunate side note to this game was the injury sustained by Shun Nogaito. He came off in injury time with what looked like a knee injury and was taped up and iced as he failed to return to the pitch.

 

Season stats – so far:

Top scorers – Bruno Suzuki & Koya Kazama (3 goals)

Top assists – Leo Mineiro (3 assists)

Most chances created – Leo Mineiro (16 chances created)

Most appearances – Leo Mineiro, Taisuke Mizuno, Masanori Abe (12 apps)

Most playing minutes – Taisuke Mizuno (1103 minutes)

Most shots – Leo Mineiro (29 shots)

FC Gifu v Shimizu S-Pulse

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Sunday sees FC Gifu take on Shimizu S-Pulse at Nagaragawa Memorial Centre. After Tuesday’s draw at high flying Machida Zelvia, Ramos’ men face another big test in a run full of them (after S-Pulse, Gifu face Okayama then JEF United).

The game promises to be an exciting one, but there are other events going on at the game. Here is a taste of what is going on on Sunday afternoon/evening:

FC Gifu family festival:

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If families are going, the kids can have fun before the game in the ball pool. That is open from 3:00pm. Also, if the weather is good, kids can go in battery powered cars – dodgems, if you will. Oh, that’s free! 0df5a0eb17a4d56ca9e22378b3727733-1000x393.jpg

Mino area promotion

Located just to the north of Gifu city, the Mino-kamo area, and Mino city will have booths to promote themselves. Supporters can try the Mino-kamo Yaki-soba….

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and various other items from the area. My personal favourite is the ice cream Monaca. Well worth a try!

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Free things!

Lots of opportunites to get free stuff, including clear files, snacks, pin badges etc. Can’t complain if you get them for free, right?

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And if you are still hungry before the game, head to the food court where there is plenty of local specialities including Hida croquettes, Gifu Grand Hotel curry, Kei-chan chicken etc.

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How to get there:

Car – head north of the Nagara river towards the Nagaragawa Memorial Complex. There is various parking areas around the stadium, but they can get full pretty quickly.

There is a park & ride scheme that operates from the Obusa parking area (opposite the Gifu Grand Hotel) and it is free. It starts 3 hours before KO, so in this instance it will start at 3pm.

Public transport – take the bus from JR Gifu station bus area stop number 11. Get on the “Gifu loop bus” (岐阜市内ループ) and get off at Gifu Memorial Centre Kita (岐阜メモリアルセンター北).

(If you get the bus from JR Gifu station, you will a) see supporters, so just follow them and b) bus company staff at stops 10 & 11. Ask them, and they can help you. The journey will cost ¥210.

See you there!!!

Goal-den Week

Golden Week in Japan starts tomorrow (April 29) and it is an important time to assess the goals & targets for the team this year. FC Gifu’s schedule in the next 9 days is a pretty tough one, and as such it will be a good barometer to the team’s hopes in 2016.

April 29 – vs Renofa Yamaguchi (H)

Gifu welcome Renofa Yamaguchi to Nagaragawa Memorial Centre with the team from west Japan on an absolute high after thumping JEF United Chiba last week. Renofa, led by their dangerous forward line, are unbeaten in their last five games and seem to have carried on their cavalier style which saw them win J3 last year.

Key man – Yatsunori Shimaya

Scorer of 16 goals last year, the ex-Verspah Oita forward is a difficult man to keep track of on the pitch. He doesn’t really play the traditional strikers role that his goalscoring record throughour Japan’s leagues indicates he would. Instead, he tends to drift to the sides and tries to find space in oppositions’ defensive set-up. Given that Gifu’s athletic right back Tsukasa Masuyama is out through suspension, it will be up to Go Iwase and whoever replaces Masuyama to defend him. Easier said than done.

May 3 – vs Machida Zelvia (A)

Machida Zelvia – top of the league. Not a sentence many people though they’d be saying in 2016, but that is exactly what is occurring now. They’ve won six of their last seven and the only defeat they’ve suffered was on the opening day against pre-season title favourites Cerezo Osaka.

Key man – Ri Han Jae

With a team playing as well as Zelvia are, it is difficult to limit the key player search. Veteran forward Yuki Nakashima deserves a mention after scoring five goals so far, but I’ll go with Zelvia’s midfield linchpin, and ex-FC Gifu player, Ri Han Jae.

Ri isn’t the sexiest player you’ll ever see, but his importance to the way Zelvia play is undeniable. Someone who sits in the middle of the park and lets the other playmakers do their thing – in Machida’s case Takafumi Suzuki, Koji Suzuki and Tatsuya Yazawa. Never underestimate the importance of a no-frills holding/defensive midfielder.

May 8 vs Shimizu S-Pulse (H)

One game that FC Gifu supporters were looking forward to when the fixtures were announced, this Golden Week tilt will a popular place a week on Sunday. Last year, Gifu saw off S-Pulse’s rivals Jubilo Iwata at home, and this new look Gifu will hope to do the same to Shinji Kobayashi’s men. S-Pulse have taken their time to get used to life at this level, but so far have played better away from home than at Nihondaira. Maybe they feel less pressure away from home, who knows? But the facts are that Shimizu have, up to now, won all of their away games so far.

Key man – Genki Omae

I haven’t seen S-Pulse as much as I’d like to have done, but in the games I have seen it has been pretty hard to look past Genki Omae as their key man. A slippery forward with an accurate shot on him, he seems to play better when he is partnered/assisted by Aussie forward Mitchell Duke. Duke, and the returning Chong Tese take a lot of defensive heat off Omae, and he is very hard to defend one-on-one. He will present a huge challenge to Gifu’s relatively young centre back Ryutaro Karube. It is in a game such as this where a defensive midfielder is a must in order to stop Omae getting service. If he does, it will be bad for Gifu.

FC Gifu vs Matsumoto Yamaga: A history

In the short time that Matsumoto Yamaga have been in the J.League proper, I’ve come to look upon them as Gifu’s main “local” rivals. Of course, the word local in this context is relative; there is not a lot that is local about the two teams given that Matsumoto is 2.5 hour + train ride from Gifu, and something very similar by highway. But it is really the nearest thing either team have to a local derby that they can play in. Gifu don’t really have the chance to play Nagoya Grampus often, while Matsumoto will have to wait until Nagano Parceiro get their act together and get into J2 before they can partake in what would almost certainly be a “proper” derby.

So, for the time being both teams have to settle for this. And it isn’t a bad compromise. The games are almost always exciting, they feel like a derby, and the supporters get well into it. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at what happens when greens of Gifu and Matsumoto collide.

1.FC Gifu 0-1 Matsumoto Yamaga (May 13, 2012)

The first meeting between these sides was settled by a Kento Tsurumaki strike just before half time. The relative calm of this game was not a pre-cursor for the more dramatic matches were to come in this series.

2. Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 FC Gifu (October 18, 2012)

I seem to remember this game being played in a midweek due to fixture congestion, and with Gifu mired in a relegation battle, it was imperative that we got something from the game. Unfortunately, with just two minutes left on the clock, Brazilian forward Ricardo scrambled in a winner to plunge Gifu into incredibly deep trouble. It was only the huge ineptness of Machida Zelvia and bad JFL stadia that kept Gifu up that year.

 

3. Matsumoto Yamaga 1-2 FC Gifu (April 14, 2013)

Where to start? How about the fact that Gifu hadn’t scored for about 4 years (that’s an exaggeration, but it was in the middle of the great Gifu goal drought of 2014….we hadn’t scored since the beginning of that season).

Gifu had brought in Hiroki Higuchi on loan to try and spark the forward line, and he looked sprightly as Gifu played really well in the first half. But right on the stroke of half time, Yuzo Iwakami (I think) floated a cross in that caught the strong wind and sailed over the stranded Shogo Tokihisa in Gifu’s goal. It was a goal that summed up Gifu’s season up to that point.

In the second half, FC Gifu played with that wind but couldn’t really create any clear chances. Coach Koji Gyotoku put on central defender Tatsuya Arai, much to the displeasure of the traveling supporters – but boy, were we proved wrong. 15 minutes from time, Kazuki Someya curled in a beautiful cross and Arai slammed a header in to the Yamaga net to cue delirious celebrations from the supporters. Things went from delirium to…..I’m not sure the progression from delirium but whatever it is called, Gifu supporters reached it when Arai bundled in his second with eight minutes remaining to put us 2-1 up.

Gifu held out to record a scarcely believable win, and I got very drunk on the train back. Good times!

4. FC Gifu 1-2 Matsumoto Yamaga (October 6, 2013)

It was really never going to live up to our expectations, this one as Shogo Shiozawa and Yuzo Iwakami powered Yamaga, and their fanatical traveling support, to a 2-1 win, despite Gifu’s Macedonian forward Blazhe Ilijovski’s injury time consolation goal.

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5. Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 FC Gifu (April 26, 2014)

Despite a decent performance, Gifu fell victim once again to Yuzo Iwakami (he really doesn’t like Gifu, does he?) as his 75th minute winner settled what I remember to be a very even game.

6. FC Gifu 3-1 Matsumoto Yamaga

The edge was taken off this game when Matsumoto secured promotion to J1 the previous weekend, but that fact, and the fact that this was the final game for popular players Atsushi Mio and Kosuke Kitani made for a festival atmosphere.

Hiroaki Namba got straight in to the party mood when he crashed home a thirty yard rocket which was subsequently voted Gifu’s goal of the year. Hiroki Yamamoto replied almost instantly to level things, but right on half time Cristian Nazarit netted his 17th of an excellent campaign to restore Gifu’s lead.

The party was sealed when Masashi Miyazawa lashed in his first goal in EIGHT years to confirm Gifu as 3-1 winners. The players saw off Mio & Kitani in fitting style, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi lifted the “Top of Kita-Alps” trophy, and all was right with the world.

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Chapter 7 will be written next Sunday in Gifu……

4 in a row!

FC Gifu’s last four games:

  • Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-0
  • Ehime FC 3-0
  • Mito Hollyhock 1-0
  • Tokushima Vortis 3-1

ALL WINS!

At the time of writing this – Sunday April 3rd – FC Gifu sit 5th in J2. Quite how this has happened has baffled more than a few people. But I will attempt to try and explain it.

1.The system

In going from such a horrific start to 5th in the league, there had to be some kind of change in tactical thinking. From the Kitakyushu game, Ramos (or others on his coaching staff) knew that having a player whose job it was just to block attacks before they hit the last line of defence would be invaluable. Since then, Gifu haven’t stopped winning. Now Ramos uses a 4-1-4-1 system which gives a lot more protection to the defence, as well as providing the midfield with a bit more reinforcement. If I was being generous, I’d liken it to how Jurgen Klopp/Thomas Tuchel set up Borussia Dortmund. Of course, Gifu don’t have Ilkay Gundogan, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus etc to call on, but I think the idea is the same: back that your organization of the midfield and the individual ability of the attacking players are better that the opposition.

You’d think that employing a system like this would result in a significant decrease in the amount of attacking options, but it hasn’t. Why? That brings me on to point number 2….

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Ruy Ramos

2.The players

Whether by design or by chance, Ramos has found a set of players that can implement the new system perfectly.

It starts at the back, where Tsukasa Masuyama (right back) and Shun Nogaito (left back) provide stamina, and attacking threat from the full back position.

The holding midfielder – usually Daiki Tamori if fit (although it was Naoya Okane in today’s win against Tokushima) – has one job: sit in front of the central defenders.

The central midfielders, of which Taisuke Mizuno has made himself almost indispensable, have to provide the requisite mix of energy, tracking & ball playing ability. Mizuno, Tsubasa Aoki, Leonardo Rocha, Keiji Takachi can all mix & match in there and can fill whatever roles are required of them.

Arguably the key to the attacking intent of this team are the wide players. They need to have lots of stamina, a high work rate, be able to create chances and possess the ability to help the striker and be dangerous of their own accord. Luckily for Gifu we have two players could not be any more of a perfect fit for these roles. On the left is Leo Mineiro, arguably one of the best players in the league at this point. He is so dangerous with the ball, but that is balanced by his incessant running & chasing. On the right, Koya Kazama has found his calling as an attacking right sided midfielder. This season, he just seems to have become with each game, culminating in today’s 10/10 performance. He is so busy, and one thing that has also improved this year is his final ball/set piece delivery and he poses a threat to the opposition whenever he has the ball at his feet.

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When you play just one up front, that one player has to be able to defend from the front if the pressing system is to work. Ryo Takiya, the young forward straight out of university did really well in his first games and looks like he could develop into a good player. Today, Bruno Suzuki really played well in the role. He brought an element of pace and the ability to play on the shoulder of the last defender that Gifu has missed since Nazarit left. Considering it was his full debut for the club, Suzuki was excellent. He tired a bit towards the end, when he was replaced by Leonardo Rocha, but up until that point he was constantly chasing defenders and using his pace to get in down the channels. When does that, it creates a lot of space behind for the likes of Leo, Kazama, Takachi & Rocha to work in.

3.Young players

In what seems like a complete reversal from his first two years. Ramos is entrusting young players in the system. The aforementioned Ryo Takiya has performed well, as have Taisuke Mizuno & Tsubasa Aoki in midfield. Perhaps the most impressive youngster has been defender Masaya Tashiro, who unfortunately missed out today after breaking a bone in his cheek. He looked like a superb find in his limited playing time before the injury, and I expect him to come back in and form a good partnership with Masanori Abe or Naoya Okane. Ryutaro Karube played in defence today, and looked excellent. It seems a very “Ramos thing” to do, to put someone in defence with no prior experience but looks good on the ball (in fact, it is something that – whisper it – Pep Guardiola likes to do with his teams. Think Javier Mascherano at Barca, Javi Martinez at Bayern)  but Karube showed excellent poise in difficult weather conditions and displayed his ball skills when passing out of defence. It could be a find – assuming Ramos was as impressed as I was.

4.Yoshinari Takagi

It is all very well to trumpet the use of young players, but Yoshinari Takagi, Gifu’s veteran goalkeeper, has been pivotal to the recent run of form. I was taken aback when he was signed in the winter, and it is fair to say I was pretty unimpressed. But he has been the experienced head that Gifu needed after those two 0-4 results to start the season. He is laid back, relaxed and doesn’t take himself too seriously – traits that endeared himself to players and fans alike. Above that, it cut through the smoky atmosphere that was threatening to pervade the club. He has been stout and reliable when called upon and has given those in front of him a commanding/loud presence that they really needed.

All these things have come together to play a part in FC Gifu’s first four consecutive win run in seven years. We will look to make it five in a row next week against Kamatamare Sanuki. They say “confidence breeds confidence” – if that is true, FC Gifu are just getting started.

 

#WeAreGifu