Tokyo Verdy 4-3 FC Gifu

Good grief…..the scoreline suggests a dramatic game but that doesn’t even tell half the story. This was a game that will live long in the annals of J2.

FC Gifu starting XI: Kawaguchi, Abe, Takagi, Okane, Nogaito, Masuyama, Henik, Takachi, Kiyomoto, Rodrigo, Namba

I’m just going to go through the game in bullet points. It is too hard to get my head around all the stuff that happened otherwise.

14th minute – A cross from the left from Kiyomoto was bound for Rodrigo, but he was wrestled down by a Verdy defender resulting in a clear penalty. Hiroaki Namba confidently dispatched the penalty to Gifu 1-0 up.

19th minute – Tsukasa Masuyama intercepts a Kenta Misao pass just inside the Verdy half, releases Namba and he coolly slots past Yuya Sato in the Verdy goal to make it 2-0 to FC Gifu

27th minute – Hiroaki Namba grabs his hat-trick when he steals in at the front post to bundle in a low Keiji Takachi cross.

After that, nothing much happened for a while. Takachi, Namba & Rodrigo were replaced with the thinking that the team would just be able to see out the match. Well……

84th minute – Verdy grab themselves what looks like consolation goal when Kazuki Hiramoto followed up Alan Pinheiro’s shot which came off the post.

86th minute – Masaaki Chugo curls in a beautiful free-kick from 25 yards, right into the top corner. Verdy smell blood, and they believe they can get something out of the game.

92nd minute – Ryuji Sugimoto gets on the end of an Alan Pinheiro cross to head in Verdy’s equalizer. FC Gifu marking was non-existent.

95th minute – Kazuki Hiramoto somehow finds himself all alone on the edge of the six yard area where he bundles in a cross from the right.

Full time: Tokyo Verdy 4-3 FC Gifu


What happened?

  • FC Gifu continued from where they left off against Cerezo Osaka, pressing well and going more direct. Hiroaki Namba was the beneficiary of fine pressing/high tempo play by Masuyama & Kiyomoto in particular. When Namba, Takachi & Rodrigo came off, Gifu didn’t know how to keep their composure. We’ve seen Gifu lose leads in quick time before, but nothing this dramatic.

Where do we go from here?

  • That is a very good question. Defeats, you can deal with. Capitulations are another thing altogether, and you wonder what kind of effect this will have on the morale of the squad. Gifu have now lost 6 out of 7  this year – something isn’t right, that much is clear. The players change, the formation changes – but the results don’t.

Who’s up next?

  • Next Sunday, Gifu host another team that has won just just once – Tochigi SC. They are also coming off a loss where they conceded four goals (they lost 4-2 at home to Giravanz Kitakyushu). Gifu need a win. Not just to get themselves off the bottom of the league, but to get the supporters back onside. We need something to rally around, we need signs that things are going to get better.

Tokyo Verdy v FC Gifu

We are only 6 games into the J2 season, but it is time to start facing facts: Gifu are bottom of the league and need to start picking up wins. This weekend they head to the capital to take on Tokyo Verdy, a team they did the double over last year.

FC Gifu current form & condition

Despite a spirited performance last week again Cerezo Osaka, Gifu slipped to a 0-2 defeat – but there were positives to take away from the performance. Naoya Okane looked very good in defence, Henik & Keiji Takachi were influential in midfield while Rodrigo looked like he could be ready to contribute.

The one big question is in goal. Gakuji Ota’s mistake last week has been well documented, and Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi & Satoshi Tokizawa are both fit and eager to play. My heart says Gakuji should get a chance to put last week behind him, but I have a feeling Tokizawa might get his FC Gifu debut.


Tokyo Verdy current form  & condition

The Tokyo Greens have had a very decent start to the season and they currently sit in 8th place with nine points from their six games. They have a young side, but have wisely bolstered it with the signings of Alan Pinheiro and Bruno Coutinho. One player who has looked good for Verdy is young midfielder Kento Misao. A product of the productive youth system at the club, Misao has slotted into the centre of midfield and is someone who does the simple things well. Misao, along with the  Anzais, Killoran, & Naoto Sawai should ensure that Verdy once again rely on youth this year.


Last year

FC Gifu won the game in Tokyo 1-0 thanks to a first half Hiroaki Namba goal in a game that was played Kokuritsu national stadium. In the return fixture in Gifu goals Keisuke Ota, Nazarit and Keiji Takachi gave the home side a thoroughly deserved 3-0 win.



This year

This will be a difficult game, and the key for Gifu will be matching Verdy’s energy and pressuring system. It is also incumbent on the team to find a foil for Hiroaki Namba as the former Yokohama FC man has scored all 3 of Gifu’s goals this year – someone else needs to step up.

FC Gifu v Cerezo Osaka – photos

Sometimes Twitter isn’t enough – here are some more pics from Sunday


Shun Nogaito leads the FC Gifu players in


The groundstaff get stuck into their job of removing water


Cerezo greet their fans before the warm up


FC Gifu warming up


Cerezo supporters pre-game


Gifu supporters pre-game


Captains Keiji Takachi & Hotaru Yamaguchi



It really was a day for umbrellas, ponchos, or both



Gifu’s Nagaragawa stadium



Gifu supporters urge their team on



Diego Forlan winding up for one of his corner kicks



Post game Gifu & supporters



The life of a goalkeeper…….

Any member of the goalkeeping fraternity (a fraternity I used to be a member of) knows the awful truth: you will only be remembered for your mistakes.


FC Gifu goalkeeper Gakuji Ota committed an error of judgement yesterday which put Gifu behind in a game they were on the way to getting something out of. The fact that he made a superb save in the first half is something that few people will remember – they’ll remember the way he rushed out of his area and clattered Kazumichi Takagi, which left the ball open for Diego Forlan to smash the ball into the empty net.

I saw Gakuji in the cooling down room after the game and he looked crestfallen. He probably got a dressing down from Ramos as well – not something I think anyone would particularly like. But here’s the key point: he made a mistake. Not a deliberate attempt to alter the course of the game, a mistake. Every single player on the pitch made a mistake that day, but for goalkeepers, the harsh truth is that a keeper mistake usually leads to a goal.

Every GK knows this, and it is why a lot of the goalkeeping game is mental. There’s no hiding place when things go wrong, you have to stand there, take the criticism and try and re-focus on the game. That is a very difficult thing to do.


Why did Gakuji come out for that ball? Only he will know, but it is recent trend for ‘keepers to act more as an auxiliary defender than just someone who patrols the penalty area. Most people would observe that Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the best exponent of the modern goalkeeper. He’s comfortable on the ball, shows excellent judgement, is good with either foot and instills confidence in those in front of him. Does he make mistakes? Of course he does (witness his howler against Moenchengladbach last week). Does he move on? You bet he does – because he is incredibly strong mentally. I remember watching Edwin Van Der Sar at Ajax and thinking “does he do any GK training because it looks like he’s just as good outfield as he is in goal?” Goalkeeping these days is a lot more than simply saving shots.


Gakuji, I think, is trying to model his game on one a modern ‘keeper. He is good with the ball at his feet, and his distribution is very good. He isn’t afraid to come for high balls, although I’d prefer to try and catch more often instead of punching it. But you can’t keep making errors of judgement like he did on Sunday on a regular basis though and that will have to be worked upon. He’s still young (for a goalkeeper) and so has time to improve. He needs an arm round his shoulder and to be told that he can’t change what happened. He has to look forward.

It’ll be interesting to see what Ramos does with him next week. Will he take him out if the firing line? Or will he tell him to get out there and prove he’s learning? Lest we forget, FC Gifu have one of the best goalkeepers Japan has ever produced in Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, and the highly able Satoshi Tokizawa waiting for their call.


In any event, I hope this game doesn’t effect Gakuji too much. He has potential, and looks as if he has the fundamental tools to be a good goalkeeper for years to come.

Gakuji, don’t let your head get down. People make mistakes, it is what makes us human. It is how we get past them gets respect. Vamos Gakuji!


Post match comments

FC Gifu manager Ruy Ramos:

  • We prepared for this game knowing that we would have to pressure Cerezo, and not let them settle. We knew we had to show some fight as well – it was clear that the supporters weren’t happy after the last game. We heard from them that “sometimes we have to lose, but to not put up a fight is not acceptable.” Today I think we showed good spirit.
  • Obviously the pitch condition wasn’t conducive to any kind of passing football so we had to keep our gameplan simple. Direct play, try to push their defence back and if the chances come, we had to finish them. We did that well in the first half.
  • Of course I’m upset about the circumstances of the first goal but I’ve experienced many many things in my career. The key is how you move on from them. It is my job to get their heads back up and ready for the next game.

FC Gifu forward Hiroaki Namba

  • If I had taken one of my chances today, I think the overall outcome of the game could have been different. A forward’s main job is to score goals and today Diego Forlan & Cacau did their job. We lost, but I think we played well and at least got some respect.

FC Gifu 0-2 Cerezo Osaka

Despite a highly positive and energetic performance from Ruy Ramos’ men, Gifu slipped to a defeat against promotion favourites Cerezo Osaka at a drenched Nagaragawa memorial centre.


FC Gifu starting XI: Ota, Abe, Okane, Takagi, Sekita, Nogaito, Henik, Masuyama, Takachi, Rodrigo, Namba

The game started in really bad conditions, with lots of standing water on the pitch the ball was holding up and didn’t allow either side to pass the ball with any certainty.


Gifu started the better of the two sides, clearly fired up after Wednesday’s horror show in Oita. They set about their more illustrious opponents with vigour and forced a flurry of early corners, and from one of them Hiroshi Sekita should have put his header on target. Namba & Rodrigo were combining well and the Brazilian especially was causing trouble as he floated across the frontline.


Cerezo’s first chance came from a charged down clearance from Gakuji Ota, but the young keeper got back to stop Cacau’s goal-bound effort. Ota was then called into action again to brilliantly tip over Mukuhara’s shot. It was end to end stuff in the rain and Gifu were next to threaten, another Sekita header being well held by Cerezo ‘keeper Tanno.


Half time came, and 0-0 probably favoured Osaka more than Gifu, and the home side didn’t let up as the second half got underway. Just 3 minutes into the half, the effervescent Hiroaki Namba stung the palms of Tanno with a fierce shot that the keeper pushed away for a corner.

Then, in the 66th minute, came the moment the game turned. A hopeful long ball forward from Someya (I think) looked like it was going to be dealt with by Kazumichi Takagi, but Gakuji Ota raced out of his area and took out Takagi, but not the ball, and it left Diego Forlan with the easiest goal he’s ever likely to score. Gakuji won’t want to look at it too often.

But Gifu didn’t lie down and they came so close to leveling when Rodrigo’s shot was deflected cm’s wide of the post with Tanno well beaten. Cerezo made the game safe 10 minutes from the end, when Cacau delightfully chipped Ota from just inside the area.


Full time came, and Cerezo went off to celebrate with their pink-clad support.



On the other hand, Gifu were left to rue what might have been. They got a good reception from the supporters, and rightly so. They played the best they’ve played all season (maybe best for a long time) and showed the desire, determination & spirit that supporters had worried they’d lost.


If Gifu replicate that kind of performance & effort from here on out, they’ll be just fine. Naoya Okane was very good in the heart of the defence and Rodrigo excelled in what looked like a free role. Henik & Takachi stood toe-to-toe with Hotaru Yamaguchi, Takahiro Ogihara & Hasegawa and matched them. (Ogihara was irrelevant – I forgot he was even playing until he went down injured in the last five minutes).

Ramos’ job will be to replicate this performance next week when they make the trip to the capital to face Tokyo Verdy.




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