Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Did I Miss Anything?

"No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow." - Lin Yutang.

I love a good, long holiday as much as the next man, but there's always something nice about coming home. Especially when some of the season's most exciting action has taken place in your absence.

The 2-2 draw away to Niigata sounded like a corker and Taniguchi's last-minute winner against FC Tokyo may well have rejuvenated a title challenge that looked to be flagging. But the 3-0 victory over Kashima has to go down as the one not to have missed.

Having crossed the halfway stage, the good ship Frontale finds itself in pretty good shape. In the league they sit in 2nd place, 8 points adrift of table-toppers Kashima. A quarter-final clash against Nagoya Grampus awaits in the ACL. And they've claimed a semi-final spot in the Nabisco Cup thanks to Juninho's late, late heroics against Kashima.

It was another slow start for Juninho this campaign. But in recent weeks he's been back to his best - rescuing the team on more than one occasion. He'll need to maintain this impressive form if Frontale really are to go on and claim their first piece of silverware. It would certainly be a shame if the Brazilian, now in his 7th season at the club, were to end his career in Japan without lifting a trophy.

To be fair, it wasn't only Juninho whose early season form left a lot to be desired. Defensively the team was a shambles while Sekizuka tinkered with player selection and formation in his backline. And up front there was very little cohesion between midfield and attack.

While the team is still not exactly water-tight at the back, they've made vast improvements. Kikuchi has emerged as a real asset in the heart of defence, offering the kind of speed and aerial power that Igawa lacks. And having either Terada or Yokoyama sit in front of the centre-backs has helped to shore things up.

In attack there are still problems that need to be addressed if Frontale are to fulfil their potential. Yajima doesn't look good enough to be a starter and Yamagishi has also been getting an alarming amount of field time of late. The team is simply not at full strength with these two involved.

I'm not sure what's going on with Vitor Junior - whether he's still struggling for match fitness after his spell out through injury, or if his form is not good enough in training - but his creative presence is sorely missed. He scored Frontale's only goal in their 3-1 Satellite League loss to FC Tokyo on the 2nd August, so perhaps he'll be ready to start against Nagoya at the weekend.

Chong Tese is another one who's been notable by his absence in recent times. Sekizuka now seems to be using him predominantly as an impact sub, but whether this is by choice remains to be seen.

A hectic couple of months lie ahead, but for the Frontale faithful there's plenty to be excited about.


Ben said...

Yeah, the late goal by Juninho against Kashima was a cracker. Managed to find an English feed of the game and was getting ready to turn it off with a few seconds to go. Once they had that one, I knew they'd get a few more goals.

manyar said...

Managed to track it down with about 20 minutes of normal time left. Unbelievable ending.

I thought Oliveira was crazy to take off Koroki. And then when Ogasawara missed that golden chance late on there was just the faintest hope that something might happen.

When it went into extra time you could tell from the body language there was only one team going to win it. And the Kikuchi sending off just added that extra layer of drama.

Never a dull moment!

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