Japan has the highest proportion of elderly citizens of any country in the world. The irony is when
the Samurai Blue takes to the pitch against Australia tonight, it's the Socceroos who'll attract
all the attention for their age.
The Australian team which drew 0-0 in its opening fourth round World Cup qualifier against Oman had
a combined average age of almost 32.
They've scrapped, they've scraped and they've even overcome a penalty shoot-out: it seems
like nothing can stop Japan in their quest for a fourth Asian Cup title.
Japan conceded a soft equaliser just seconds away from an extra-time win over arch-rivals South
Korea in their semi-final, only for goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to stand tall as he saved the Taeguk
Warriors' first two penalties in a one-sided shoot-out victory.
2,022. That was the attendance figure announced when Japan faced off against Saudi Arabia
at Al-Rayyan stadium, and the symbolism drew a smattering of applause from the 800 or so fans
actually in attendance.
Evidently the Asian Cup is not a widespread crowd-puller. With most Saudi fans on the first bus
back to Jeddah as soon as the whistle blew on their second group-stage defeat, it's clear most of
the Saudi players wished they'd taken the same route.
Keisuke Honda criticised his team's defensive football and admitted that he wouldn't even
have watched the match.
Takeshi Okada apologised to the nation
for failing to achieve his goal of steering Japan to the semi-finals.
Takeshi Okada says he'll become a farmer after the World Cup, but just hours before Japan's
second round showdown with Paraguay, the quietly-spoken coach shows no sign of pulling up
Okada is confident that his side can
make history and reach the final eight of a World Cup for the first time, taking one step closer to
fulfilling his pre-tournament prediction that Japan are good enough to reach the semi-finals in
The Netherlands brushed aside Japan when the two sides met in a friendly in Enschede just
over nine months ago, but there's far more at stake when the pair meet at the Moses Mabhida Stadium
in Durban today, with a place in the World Cup knock-out stages on the
Fresh from their opening day victories, both sides will
be eager to book a spot in the Round of 16 with another win here, although neither side looked
particularly convincing in their first-up performances.
Their team's preparation could hardly have been worse, but the wait is finally over for
Japan fans as the Samurai Blue get set to make their bow at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South
Coach Takeshi Okada's embattled side turned in a
string of poor performances in pre-World Cup friendlies, but there will be far more at stake when
captain Makoto Hasebe leads his team out against Cameroon at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontain
Takeshi Okada has named his 23-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, with
few surprises thrown in by the coach of the Samurai Blue.
Jubilo Iwata goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was the biggest surprise,
with the veteran shot-stopper recalled as Japan's third choice goalkeeper despite missing several
months of action through injury.
The 2012 J. League first division kicks off on March 10.
The fixture list has conjured a number of notable clashes, as Gamba Osaka welcome big-spending
neighbours Vissel Kobe to Banpaku, Nagoya Grampus host Tokai rivals Shimizu S-Pulse at Toyota
Stadium and Omiya Ardija entertain local rivals FC Tokyo at Omiya Park.
What does a club do when it has just won the second division at a canter and has been crowned
national Cup champions for the first time in its history? Sign a new coach, if that club is FC
The capital outfit celebrated beating Kyoto Sanga 4-2 in the Emperor's Cup final on New Year's Day
by officially announcing Serb tactician Ranko Popovic as its new coach barely a day later.
And then there were three. Two familiar contenders, one plucky outsider and four league games are
all that stand between Kashiwa Reysol, Gamba Osaka, Nagoya Grampus and the J. League title.
Autumn is especially beautiful across the Kantō Plain, when the deciduous leaves fall and a mellow
sunlight light frames the back streets and alleys of one of the world's most populous regions.
The sight of Gamba Osaka running out at Expo '70 Stadium tonight is unlikely to fill their fans
with hope. It's more likely to fill those in attendance with a sense of trepidation as the team
currently leading the J. League standings does battle with defending Nabisco Cup champions Jubilo
Iwata for a trophy no one genuinely wants to win.
Former Japan international Naoki Matsuda has died. The 34-year-old collapsed during training with
Japan Football League club Matsumoto Yamaga on August 2.
The tenacious defender played more than 360 top-flight games for Yokohama F. Marinos and was one of
the most popular players of the J. League era.
Umbrella sellers are no doubt doing a brisk trade in Yokohama as Kanagawa giants Yokohama F.
Marinos lead the way in the J. League standings.
F. Marinos fans are known for their colourful support and it's a common sight to see the Tricolore
run out against a backdrop of twirling umbrellas at their cavernous Nissan Stadium home.
The nightmare continues for Saitama giants Urawa Reds after they were held to a scoreless draw away
at fellow strugglers Montedio Yamagata overnight.
The Reds have recorded three straight draws since beating bottom club Avispa Fukuoka in June,
leaving coach Zeljko Petrovic's side languishing in fifteenth.
It's tough being Urawa Reds. The "biggest club in Asia" tag is a difficult one to live
down, even if the Saitama giants haven't come close to winning a trophy for years.
The Reds burst onto the Asian football scene by winning the J. League under the swashbuckling
auspices of German coach Guido Buchwald in 2006, before his more circumspect
successor Holger Osieck steered the Saitama giants to Asian Champions League glory
the following year.
Five weeks after a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused widespread
destruction in Japan's northern Miyagi Prefecture, the J. League finally resumes with five Round 7
games taking place on April 23.
Foremost among them is the clash between Kawasaki Frontale and Vegalta Sendai, with Sendai the city
closest to the epicentre of the earth-shattering quake which struck on March 11.
The 8.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami which tore through north-eastern Japan
have forced the postponement of all J. League games this weekend.
The J. League announced this morning that no games would take place in J1 or J2 over the weekend,
with early reports suggesting some grounds may have suffered structural damage.
The 2011 J. League kicks off on March 5, and it looks set to be another bumper
A handful of marquee match-ups dominate the opening day, including the
Osaka derby between Gamba and Cerezo and a regional showdown between promoted Ventforet Kofu and
Defending champions Nagoya Grampus kick off their campaign with a tricky home fixture against
An Italian walks into a bar in Tokyo and asks for a local brew, but not wishing to disappoint,
the barman discreetly pours the visitor a Peroni instead.
It's a plausible scenario in a country like Japan, where citizens are eager to please and
equally desperate to avoid criticism.
Perhaps that's why the Japanese press were quick to turn a blind eye to another poor performance
from the Samurai Blue at the Asian Cup in Qatar, as Alberto Zaccheroni's men laboured to a 2-1 win
over a spirited but technically inferior Syria.
Kashima Stadium is one of the more remote venues in Japanese football.
Sandwiched between Lake Kitaura on one side and Kashima Sea on the other, most fans make the
long-haul trip to Kashima Stadium by train, as it trundles through the urban sprawl of Greater
Tokyo and out into the open fields of Ibaraki.
It's a long way from Fairfield to Mount Fuji, but Eddy Bosnar is not your average
After spells in Croatia, Austria, England and Holland, the tall defender has finally made a home
for himself at one of Japan's most popular clubs, Shimizu S-Pulse.
A cult hero on the terraces at Shimizu's compact Outsourcing Nihondaira Stadium, Bosnar has
worked hard to win over fans since his switch from Chiba-based J.
When infielder Masahiko Morino popped up a sacrifice fly to edge Chunichi Dragons past
Yokohama Baystars and into first place in Nippon Professional Baseball's Central League overnight,
he ensured Nagoya's two major sporting teams currently top their respective leagues.
The Dragons last won the Japan Series in 2007, in a year in which their footballing counterparts
struggled to make an impact - ultimately limping into a miserable eleventh-placed finish in the
Vegemite is a common sight on the shelves at Japanese speciality store Kaldi Coffee Farm,
and there was another slice of Australia on display in downtown Nagoya overnight.
Socceroos striker Josh Kennedy ran out against another lanky Australian in the form of Eddy Bosnar,
but their was little to separate their respective sides as Nagoya Grampus drew 3-3 with Shimizu
S-Pulse at Mizuho Stadium.
Things have gone from bad to worse to thoroughly miserable for Japan coach Takeshi
Four straight friendly defeats prompted Okada to
organise a hastily scheduled training match against Zimbabwe overnight, but even that failed to
yield relief as the Samurai Blue were held to a scoreless draw by the 110th-ranked African
Australian defender Eddy Bosnar continues to impress with his whole-hearted
displays at the centre of the Shimizu S-Pulse defence, with the lanky Australian one of the star
signings of the new J. League season.
He's one of the most in-demand players in Europe, plays as an attacking talent for Japan and proved
decisive in their 3-2 quarter-final win over hosts Qatar at the Asian Cup.
And his name is not Keisuke Honda.
Japan relied heavily on Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa to see off the stubborn Qataris in a
pulsating quarter-final, as the diminutive playmaker scored twice and set up the winner for
Masahiko Inoha in a come-from-behind victory.
Can Qatar host a successful World Cup in 2022? That's probably a moot question in terms of the
Asian Cup, since so much of the country resembles an open construction site.
Eleven years is a long time between tournaments, and no doubt the army of construction workers who
clog the footpaths and carparks of this tiny desert nation will work overtime to transform Qatar
from its present dusty state into a shining beacon of the Gulf.
Spain have won the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa thanks to a 116th-minute winner from
midfielder Andres Iniesta.
The Barcelona star converted a pass
from substitute Cesc Fabregas with just four minutes of extra-time remaining, after the two sides
failed to break the deadlock in normal time.
When Slovakia ran out for their first ever World Cup match at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in
Rustenberg, they probably didn't imagine making their finals debut in front of thousands of empty
But while small bands of Slovakian and New Zealand
supporters made the long trip from their respective homelands to watch the Group F encounter in
person, the match appears to have held little cachet for local supporters.