Asia Football Update – 2010 almost done!

League wise. The J. League 2010 season has been over.  In Division 1, Nagoya Grampus are the deserving champions due to great Joshua Kennedy and Keiji Tamada partnership. Kennedy shares his top scoring honor with Ryoichi Maeda of Jubilo and Edmilson of Urawa Reds. At least Japan now has developed promising strikers – Shinji Okazaki, Shoki Hirai (yet to be proved), Tamada (which unfortunately still shares the traits of Portuguese forwards), and Maeda (already has some trials with the national team, but is still far from being comfortable). Korea also has a young promise, Cho Young-Cheol.

Kashima, far from the danger of being overtaken at the final day, ended the season ahead of Gamba Osaka, after defeating Kyoto 2-1, while Gamba were surprisingly defeated at home by Yokohama Marinos. Shunsuke Nakamura’s stab and free kick assist spoiled Gamba’s season’s end party.

In Division 2, Kashiwa Reysol win the league comfortably with 77 points, nine above competitors Ventforet Kofu. Kofu’s Half-Dutch Mike Havenaar win the top scorer award with 20 goals. Actually there’s still one match left for J2, but all’s in the bag. With six points behind Avispa Fukuoka, JEF United must spend 2011 in Division 2. Good news for bottom of the ladder Kitakyushu, Toyama, and Okayama – they will not be relegated to the Japan Football League.

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K-League Championship is like what it should – between the champions and the runner-ups of the regular season. After Jeonbuk worked hard to overcome Asian Champions Seongnam, they fell to new sensation Jeju United 0-1 (Danilo Neco). Jeju will host the first final match against Seoul on Wednesday, while the day of decision will be on Sunday. Jeonbuk, however, have earned a Champions League ticket.

Park Ji-Sung and Shinji Kagawa have developed knacks to score goals in Europe. Park scored a goal in Manchester United’s massacre of Blackburn Rovers, while Kagawa scored his seventh goal with Dortmund in 4-1 rout against Monchengladbach. Park Chu-Young also follows this trend. Fresh from the grueling fight in Asian Games, he scored from penalty kick in Monaco’s 1-1 tie against Nice. He has scored five goals. Now if Takayuki Morimoto would kindly like to follow suit…

2010 AFF Suzuki Cup starts on Wednesday, featuring eight Southeast Asian nations.  Looking from FIFA’s ranking, Thailand is still the top SE Asian nation, while Indonesia comes second and will feature its foreign-born strikers Cristian Gonzales and Irfan Bachdim, while Papuan star Boaz Solossa is omitted for disciplinary problem. Melbourne Victory’s Surat Sukha join the Thai team under Bryan Robson, while almost half of Singaporean players play in the Indonesian Super League, including stars Agu Casmir, Precious, Shahril Ishak, and Noor Alam Shah.

Nicky Butt, a former Red Devil who fought alongside Scholes, Beckham, and Keane, is playing for Hong Kong’s South China AA.

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Asia Football Update – Glory in Japan

The Sun is Rising.

Until the middle of this decade, Nagoya is seen as a mediocre team in the J. League, like the city itself is put behind Tokyo & the Kansai Triangle (Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe). If a team can make the big break in J. League, that’d be Shimizu S-Pulse. But Nagoya Grampus have won the 2010 J. League Division 1 league last Saturday after downing already-relegated Shonan Bellmare 1-0 (Tamada). Gamba Osaka also made it to the Champions League, again at the expense of Bellmare (2-1, Hashimoto and Sasaki). The other strong candidate for the Champions League tickets is Kashima Antlers, but a mistake this weekend could see Cerezo Osaka or Shimizu to slip forward.

As for the national team, it’s sunny in Japan (well not many things are looking good in Japan for the moment). The U-23 national teams shine in the Asian Games in Guangzhou. Both were unbeatable and the women team kept a clean sheet throughout the tournament. Nadeshiko Japan Junior defeated Thailand, China, and North Korea, while the boys left Malaysia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Iran, and UAE knocked down.

The good thing is, the male team has broken the pattern of collective, star-less team. Forward Kensuke Nagai from Fukuoka University has become the event’s top scorer with five goals. So there is one name that Zaccheroni can ponder besides Shinji Okazaki, Keiji Tamada, Shoki Hirai, and Takayuki Morimoto to become Japan’s forwards in Qatar 2011 (with Keisuke Honda & Shinji Kagawa behind them). As for the women’s team, the classic pattern emerges. Their best goalscorer is Shinobu Ohno with 2 goals, and in total only four girls scored, compared with the eight boys.

 

Korea – Good, but not best

After North Korea being an arse again this week, I’ve decided to omitting its existence. Yes, Chong Te-Se is a living man playing in 2nd Division of Bundesliga, and NK is a team that takes part in Asian Games and the Asian Cup. But it kinda insulting to refer them as ‘North Korea’ (which NK takes as insulting – its proper name is ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’. No substitution). Korea is cool country, and it kinda sad to think that it’s northern part is…the worst. So like many other people, I’ll just call South Korea as Korea. Because the other half doesn’t matter at all.

Anyway, Korean national teams have repeated the same pattern – coming with a strong squad and yet still fail to take the gold. The girls brought in phenomenon Ji So-Yun. Yet she failed to score in a fateful semi-final against NK, before back to form in Bronze Medal match against China (damn, Chinese football is really going down). The boys took in senior team’s ace Park Chu-Young and developing star Cho Young-Cheol, who did well in the J. League. Still, they lost to NK again and then, surprisingly, to UAE.  The tragedy was set to continue in the Third Place Match against Iran, when Korea played badly for 75 minutes. Then miracle struck. Park Chu-Young’s goal was followed by quick one two by Ji Dong-Won, a rookie at Chunnam Dragons.

This is a warning for Qatar 2011: Korea can bring in a solid team compared to Japan and yet still flunked at the easiest match, while can fight to the last minute against a strong rival. Get ready for a close disappointment.

Still, the K-League can proudly say it is the best league in Asia, with Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma win the Club of the Year award from AFC, and its defender, Australian Sasa Ognenovski, becoming AFC Player of the Year. I was going to say that Tim Cahill is always a more deserving Australian to get the award, but well, he flunked in South Africa and Everton is low position in the Premier League, despite of his late goals. Josh Kennedy is yet to prove his form in the continent. In this year’s ACL, only Saudi and Iranian player can truly orchestrate their teams’ attack, while again the topscorers of the Eastern Team are non-Asians. So maybe Sasa does deserve the award.

Asia Football Update – Korea is Still the Best. And so does Shinji Kagawa.

When South Korea put in four teams into the quarter finals of AFC Champions League, the prospect of all-Korean final was bright. Then three teams were shot down spectacularly, and after defeating Bunyodkor and former champions Pohang Steelers and Al-Hilal, Zob Ahan have become a new favorite. It was unbeaten in the playoff round, while Seongnam suffered losses from Suwon and Al-Shabab.

And then, Seongnam returned to its persistent and aggressive play, despite without Dzenan Radoncic. Hulking Australian defender Sasa Ognenovski fought his way through a scrimmage, and international defender Cho Byung-Kuk scored from a corner. Zob Ahan fought back through Mohammad Khalatbari’s header, but substitute Kim Cheol-Ho lifted the thriller in the 83th minute.  Mauricio Molina failed to get two extra goals that would place him as the top scorer (the award goes to Jose Mota of Suwon), but Sasa got the Best Player award.  East Asia has won the cup for the fifth year in the row, and the K-League has demonstrated its superiority over the J. League, Australia’s A-League, and Chinese Super League – at least for this season.

J. League

Time is running out for Kashima Antlers to chase Nagoya. Nagoya defeated Omiya 2-1, while veteran players Koji Nakata and Mitsuo Ogasawara (remember Japan/Korea 2002?) took Kashima to victory over Kawasaki, which got the early lead through Vitor Junior. Gamba Osaka defeated Hiroshima 2-0 through Lee Keun-Ho and Lucas, while Cerezo failed to catch up with its rival after being held by Yamagata 3-3. Shimizu overcame its bad form with decisive 5-0 thumping of Shonan Bellmare. The goalscorers were all-stars cast of Shinji Ono, Frode Johnsen, Jungo Fujimoto, and Shinji Okazaki.

 

China

The 2010 season is over.  Shandong ended the last round by hammering Shanghai 5-2, with Han Peng’s hattrick is supposedly to ensure his entry into the Asian Cup starting eleven. Dubier Riascos, however, still managed to score a penalty kick to secure his goal tally against Shandong, and Shanghai is still qualify for the 2011 ACL. Despite Ryan Griffiths single goal against Jiangsu, Beijing failed to overtake Shanghai and to qualify for Asia. Tianjin and Hangzhou are also going to Asia with 1-0 wins over Henan and Qiangdao respectively.

 

Australia

Who is Kosta Barbarouses? This Greek-New Zealander guaranteed another smiling week for Brisbane as Roars defeated Melbourne Heart 2-1, despite Gerald Sibon’s early goal. Barbarouses has appeared in all All Whites team since sixteen years old and have scored six goals since his debut in the A-League.  Number two Adelaide suffered to unexpected defeat in the hand of Newcastle 1-3, with a double from Marko Jesic. A product of Cool Britain, Robbie Fowler, scored a hattrick for Perth against Melbourne Victory (which got one back through Diogo Ferreira). Newcastle will face a tough test this Wednesday against Brisbane.

 

Indonesia

Persebaya Surabaya, a former giant of Indonesian football currently in the second division, held a charity match against a team of Dutch-Indonesian semi-pros – and lost 1-2. The match was held to promote the Indonesian Premier League, an opposition league designed to challenge the official Indonesian Super League.  The Indonesian Football Association complained to AFC and FIFA about the employment of Egyptian referee during the charity match.

A growing numbers of fans have no problem with the Premier League as they believe the FA is utterly incompetent in managing the national team. Indonesia canceled friendlies against Hong Kong and Philippines due to the explosion of Merapi volcano in southern Central Java, which ash fallout reached West Java. It was not the FA’s fault, but fans have contrasted the cancellation with the IPL’s success in inviting some Dutch (which again, are mercenaries who didn’t complain much about personal safety).

Overseas

Right, Shinji Kagawa. He is going to Barcelona, isn’t he? Maybe. Certainly clubs west of Germany and south of Netherlands are interested in this young Japanese, which scored again for Dortmund. Still, pundits agree that it’s better for Kagawa to finish this season with Dortmund – taking them to win the Bundesliga, the DFB Pok…(uh, they lost to Kickers Offenbach), and the Europa League (trailing behind PSG and Sevilla). Kagawa’s good, but there’s still Grafite, Gekas, and Gomez to overcome. And there’s still Blue Samurai in Qatar, hoping to win the AFC Asian Cup.

Tim Cahill scored again in the last minute, this time against Arsenal. Unfortunately, that was Everton’s only goal.

Two more games in the Russian Premier League, and Zenit St. Petersburg have become champions. Keisuke Honda’s CSKA Moscow still have Rubin Kazan breathing on their neck. Will Honda move westward in January?

A Japanese player, Kosuke Kimura, who has lived in United States since he was 19, took Colorado Rapids to the MLS Cup final after scoring against San Jose Earthquakes.

 

Asian Games

Bye-bye for host China in the Men’s Asian Games, after going down to a reinforced South Korea. World Cup veterans Park Chu-Young, Kim Jung-Woo, and Cho Young-Cheol showed Chinese goalkeeper Wang Dalei that it was alright to be angry (why does the link still have many ‘Asians eat dog’ comments?).  Hong Kong’s great performance (draw against UAE and wins over Uzbekistan and Bangladesh) ended after Oman beat them 3-0, while Iran’s quest for the gold continues after overcoming Malaysia 3-1. Uzbekistan bounced back by defeating Qatar and will challenge South Korea in the quarter finals.

The international

The regular season of K-League has ended, and patient FC Seoul made it to the final of the Championship play-offs, after taking the top spot that Gyeongnam and Jeju United have contested for week after week. Gyeongnam itself barely made it to the top six, while Jeju was on the second spot.  International midfielder Kim Chi-Woo became Seoul’s savior after his last minute goal gave Seoul 2-1 advantage over Daejeon and four points clear off Jeju, which were held 0-0 by Incheon United.

Defending champions Jeonbuk entered the Championship by humiliating former giants Suwon 1-5 at home, with two goals from Kim Jee-Woong. Paraguayan striker Jose Ortigoza took Ulsan to the playoff after scoring two goals to Gwangju’s goal, while Seongnam and Gyeongnam drew 2-2 to take themselves to the next round. Seongnam, which will contest the AFC Champions League trophy this Saturday should take caution – they were able to score at the final minute, and was also able to lose their guard and got one back immediately after the kick-off.

Speaking of the cup, Al-Ittihad of Aleppo, Syria, won the AFC Cup after penalty shootout against Qadsia SC of Kuwait before 58 thousands men (hey, not bad) in Kuwait City. It will take long, long time before East Asia has a chance to win the cup, as it’s very hard for teams from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand (yes, modern Thai football is pretty sad) to compete with rivals from Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Syria.

The Asian Games’ football tournament has begun in Guangzhou, China. Japan faced a very hostile crowd and received heavy escort and not many Japanese dared to come to the stadium. The final result was a sound beating of the host, with goals coming from Ryohei Yamazaki (Jubilo), Keisuke Nagai (Fukuoka Univ.), and Daisuke Suzuki.

It was a great show by the Southeast Asians: Malaysia won over Kyrgyzstan 2-1, Vietnam defeated favorite Bahrain 3-1, Singapore held stronger Qatar 0-0, and Thailand destroyed Pakistan 6-0. Otherwise, South Korea lost to its poorer and angrier brother North Korea 1-0.

Asian midfielders sparked in Europe: Park Ji-Sung scored two goals as troubled Manchester United skimmed past Wolverhampton 2-1, and Shinji Kagawa opened Dortmund’s 4-0 shelling of Hannover. Finally, Park Chu-Young scored two goals in Monaco’s comfortable 4-0 against Nancy – it was the second win for Monaco’s after twelve games.

In Australia, Brisbane won the big match against Adelaide with a mean score – 4-0. Costa Barbarouses made his second brace of the week, while Central Coast trailed in third with 1-0 win over North Queensland.  In Japan, Kashima defeated league leaders Nagoya 1-0 thanks to its talisman, Marquinhos. Gamba Osaka failed to catch up with Kashima as they were held 1-1 by Tokyo.

Indonesia has its first foreign-born international player. Former Uruguayan striker Cristian Gonzalez has taken the Indonesian citizenship, and is expected to play for Indonesia in the Southeast Asian international tournament, the AFF Cup, in December.

K-League update

A full Wednesday for the K-League, and the result has added some spice in the play-off round run-up. Even with five teams guaranteed places for the final phase, how they are seeded and who are their opponents still may change. Seongnam, which have the knack of turning deadly in the Championship, definitely are the ones other teams wish to avoid in their first match.

Seoul, however, have passed this Seongnam’s test by beating the Pegasus in their home turf 2-1, through Taegeuk Warriors Lee Seung-Ryul and Jung Ju-Gook, against rising Korean striker Cho Dung-Gun’s goal. As Jeju United had a rest week, Seoul have overtaken their lead with one point margin.

Jeonbuk Hyundai fail to pass the 50 points mark after surprising defeat to Busan I’Park, the perpetual mid-level team in the league. Jeong Shung-Hoon’s goal in the 53th minute ensure another decent year for Busan – no chance of qualifying for the play-offs, but still in respectable rank.

Finally, Ulsan Hyundai solidify their qualification ticket after destroying the serial victim Daegu 5-0. Paraguayan star Jose Maria Ortigoza score a double, with additions from Ko Chang-Hyeon, Kim Shin-Wook, and Carmelo Valencia. Former league leaders Gyeongnam were beaten up soundly by Pohang Steelers as former Korean export Seol Ki-Hyeon scored two goals to add up Mota’s goal.

Here’s how the league stands up:

1. Seoul (59), 2. Jeju (58), 3. Jeonbuk (48), 4. Seongnam (47), 5. Ulsan (47), 6. Gyeongnam (47)

Final league day: Seoul – Daejeon, Jeju – Incheon, Jeonbuk – Suwon, Gyeongnam – Seongnam, Gwangju – Ulsan

 

Extra: In Australia, Brisbane destroyed Wellington 4-1 through Costa Barbarouses, Thomas Broich, Massimo Murdocca, and Mitchell Nichols. Wellington’s resistance came through Tim Brown. Mid-tablers Perth & Melbourne Heart added another 0-0 result to the league’s record.

Back!

Hey, it’s been some months.  For the last few months I’ve given weekly updates to an Australian blog, Science of Football. Then it’s been closed for some weeks, so it’s time to come back to my baby.

So, while this blog was inactive, some things happened, although thankfully nobody finishes their season yet.  In Japan, Nagoya Grampus are 11 points clear with six games to go. In South Korea, five of six teams qualified for the play-offs round have been decided with two matches left. The sixth spot is up for grab between Ulsan Horang-i (44 pts.) and Suwon Samsung Bluewings (40).

In China, only one more game left but the champions have been decided – Shandong Luneng. Beijing and Dalian, at fifth and sixth places, have the slim chance of qualifying for the Champions League if something bad happens to fourth place Hangzhou this Saturday.

AFC Champions League final – between Iranian new stars Zob Ahan and classical Korean strongmen Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. The only problem is it seems that only few people in Asia care about the Champions League, with limited press coverage and constant low attendances, with the exception of Saudi’s Al-Hilal. Yes, Seongnam is a strong team but it’s never been popular in Korea because of its link to the Unification Church (better known as Moonies), and frankly Asians just don’t care about their teams fighting foreign clubs, in contrast to fight teams from other cities or derbies.

Since K-League will have another game day on Wednesday, I’ll be back tomorrow. How that sounds? I’m already sleepy here.