After a week’s hiatus (work……always work) there is a lot to catch up on. But surprisingly, not in the goals column.
Nil-nils reign supreme
In the last two games, Gifu have been involved in two scoreless draws. The fact that they came against two of the better attacking units in the league Tokyo Verdy (A) and Tokushima Vortis (H) only adds to the intrigue.
Against Verdy, Gifu were undoubtedly the better team and two golden chances to win it, but neither Kota Miyamoto nor Kensei Nakashima could convert their chances. A draw looks a good result but I know they were very disappointed not to come back from the capital with all three points.
Tokushima was a very different affair. Despite the scoreline, it was a very entertaining game with chances for both sides. Sisinio told me after the game that he thought Vortis just deserved to win because they created a few more chances but I disagreed with him – because we are both biased (more from Sisi later).
In deference to Vortis’ ex-Gifu midfielder, Vortis did play well and if they’d had Daiki Watari (who somewhat disappointingly warming the bench at Sanfrecce Hiroshima) then they would have won. On the flip side, Gifu had three golden chances and if two of them hadn’t fallen to right back Masanori Abe we could well be talking about a Gifu win. But in the end it was probably an fair result.
I had a chance to speak with the ex-Gifu midfielder upon his return to the stadium where he was adored:
- Me: It must be a bit weird, no?
- Sisi: Haha! Yes! When I came in I automatically went to the home locker room. And the drive on the bus (to the stadium) brought back memories.
- Me: How do you like Tokushima?
- Sisi: It’s a nice place. Small – similar size to Gifu. Sometimes it is a little inconvenient because trips can take a long time because we have to go to Kobe first. But the scenery is nice, there are some nice beaches. It’s good.
- Me: How’s your physical condition. Obviously you are a bit rested this week….(after his red card against Verdy the previous week)
- Sisi: Yeah, I feel good. Last year, it took me one hour to get to training everyday (nb: he lived in Nagoya whilst he played at Gifu) but now it is much shorter and I can get a lot more rest and don’t have to worry about too much traveling. No injuries so far. So far, so good!
- Me: Looking forward to this game?
- Sisi: Hmmm. Looking forward? That’s difficult to say. Obviously I had a very good time here last year and in a way it will be difficult to play against Gifu. I still have many friends here. But I’m professional and my team is Tokushima. I always Gifu to do well….just not today!
- Me: Ha! I’ll accept that answer. Still studying Japanese?
- Sisi: Yes, very much. Almost everyday. I go to training, have lunch at the clubhouse, relax a little bit and then usually go home and study. I’m getting better!
At the end of the game, he went to the Gifu supporters and bowed/saluted them. Most of the curva behind the goal had stayed for that particular event and it was very well appreciated. Yuki Omoto was there too – although he was treated slightly differently during the game that Sisi was…..
I’ll say a few things about this:
- Booing ex-players is nothing new. I’ve done it before (not in Japan) and it is part & parcel of the game in many countries.
- Why was Omoto booed, and Sisinio wasn’t? I don’t know. They were both outstanding for Gifu last year. Maybe it was accepted that Sisinio would move on from Gifu because he was too good to play at the bottom of J2 again. Maybe we expected Yuki to stay and continue his development with Takeshi Oki. That is just guesswork.
- Omoto was THE standout player last week. As soon as he touched the ball, we were all reminded of why we loved him on our team last year. The pace, the directness, the energy – I’m very jealous of Tokushima for having him. He’s missed most of the season through injury – indeed Sunday was his first full game for Vortis – but nce he gets up to full speed I think he’ll establish himself as one of the best players in J2 and if Vortis don’t go up this year, Omoto will almost certainly be in J1 2019 anyway.
- I hope Vortis can help Yuki reach his potential. Most Gifu supporters wish him well. The fact that some booed him during the game on Sunday? Who cares. Football is a game of opinions & choices.
- I’m not going to sway from my view that I formed last year: Omoto is a national team player in waiting. With good coaching and good development he’s borderline unplayable at times. He’d have no problems in J1 – and the attacking full back/wing back is the new in vogue player. Omoto is the future of the right sided player.
A trip to the top
Gifu are on the rod this weekend when they visit the western Japanese city of Okayama for a date with table topping Fagiano Okayama. In one of the very many weird quirks of the J.League, Gifu actually have a good record at Fagiano having won five of the nine meetings there, and only losing twice.
Okayama play a three back system, with the impressive Jun Ichimori in goal. The one player to watch is midfielder Kota Ueda. He has been very impressive in Okayama’s fast start, and beware if he is given a free-kick within 25 yards of goal. He has already scored two free-kicks this year and his delivery or shooting prowess is always a menace.
In a way, I’m more confident about getting a result from this game than I was about getting a positive result at home against Vortis. Okayama are highly organized, but in Kyogo Furuhashi and Junichi Paulo Tanaka we have wildcard players that can disrupt an organized defence.
300 not out
Big salutes going out to Hiroaki Namba, who made his 300th appearance in the J.League when he came on as a sub in the Vortis game. There’ll be more on this when I have the time to write a fully deserved article on him. But in the meantime – congrats Nan-chan!