Junior team in the Asian Games
Japan's young soccer players played their first game at the Asian Games in Thailand on Dec. 1. They faced Nepal. Already in the 1st half, Japan achieved 3 goals. In the end Japan won 5 to 0. On Dec.3, the Japanese players appeared exhausted from the heat, but was able to win against India 1 to 0. The above games were held prior to the opening ceremony on Dec. 6. On the 7th, Japan faced South Korea. The difference of experience was obvious. All the Japanese players were under 21 whereas 5 of the South Koreans played at the World Cup in France. Japan lost 0 to 2. On Dec. 9 Japan defeated Kuwait 2 to 1. However, Japan's lost to the United Arab Emirates on Dec. 9 halted the team's prospect of proceeding to the next round.
Toyota Cup: Real Madrid vs Vasco da Gama
On Dec. 1, European club champion Real Madrid faced South America's counterpart Vasco da Gama. A crowd of 51,000 turned up. Among them was Argentine President Menem. In the first 26th minute, Real Madrid's Brazilian player, Roberto Carlos shot a long kick from the side that bounced 3 times and into the goal. However, the 1st half of the game was rather sluggish. Then 10 minutes into the later half, Vasco da Gama attacked the opponents' goal furiously. Real Madrid's goalkeeper kept the ball from entering the goal once, but Juninho scored. In the last 37th minute, 21-year old Raul received a long pass, dribbled the ball pass 2 players and succeeded in a game winning goal for Real Madrid. The European side clinched the world club team title for the 2nd time in 38 years. Spanish national team player,Raul was selected MVP.
Kirin Challenge '98: Japan vs. Egypt
The friendly match was held as scheduled on Oct. 28 in Osaka's Nagai Stadium. It's Japan's national team's first international match after the World Cup and under Frenchman Philippe Troussier. The crowd was especially overjoyed in seeing Hidetoshi Nakata in the game. He's returned to Japan from the Italian league just to play in this game. In the first 25 minutes of the game, Masashi "Gon" Nakayama kicked in a penalty. Japan has had more chances for a goal thereafter. Nakata even aimed at the goal a couple of times but he either missed or the Egyptian goalkeeper defended well. Japan, in any case defeated the African champion 1 to 0.
Maezono makes dramatic debut with Santos
Masakiyo Maezono wearing Pele's number, played from the later half of the game for Santos on Oct.18. It was a game against Portuguesa. Neither of the teams could score, and Maezono, a minute after he joined the game kicked in the first goal of the game. Later, Portuguesa caught up, and the game ended a draw.
Japan vs World Dreams
The Jomo Cup is a competition between the Japanese all stars and foreigners playing for the J.League. It took place at Tokyo's National Stadium on Oct. 10 Health and Sports Day--a national holiday before a turnout of 47,020. Paraguayan goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert was the game's special guest. International players belonging to the J.League were Fernando Oliva, Zeljko Petrovic, Arnold Scholten, He, however, could not stop Kashima Antlers forward Atsushi Yanagisawa. Yanagisawa achieved a hat trick in the 3 to 1 match. Yanagisawa was left out from the World Cup squad in France.
Maezono to Santos
In a press conference on Sept. 22, Masakiyo Maezono of Verdy Kawasaki announced that he will play with the Brazilian club team Santos during the remainder of this year. It's the first time a J.league player will be leased to the Brazilian club team. Kazu Miura played for Santos before he started his pro soccer career in Japan.
Michiyo's Note: Maezono was a bigger star than Nakata among the Japanese when he served as captain of the national team in the Atlanta Olympic Games. Since leaving the Yokohama Flugels and signing with Verdy last year, he seemed to have lost the energy and charisma--that he wasn't even chosen to play on the World Cup squad. He's still 24, so this move might be a good time for him to change.
Troussier is national team's new manager
It's been already known for a month that Philippe Troussier, former South African team manager will take over as Japan's national team manager, but on Sept. 10, it became official. He will sign a 2 year contract with the Japan Football Association. He did sign it on Sept. 21
Chairmanship to Okano
Shunichiro Okano officially replaced outgoing chairman Ken Naganuma on July 20. Okano is a graduate of the elite University of Tokyo. He coached the national team under Ken Naganuma who was the manager, and contributed to Japan's winning of the bronze medal in the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games. Okano is currently member of the International Olympic Committee. 67-year old Naganuma served 2 terms, or a total 4 years as chairman of the Japan Football Association.
* Japan vs. Paraguay at Tokyo's National Stadium
On May 17, Japanese players selected for the World Cup squad played an international match for the first time. Over 53,000 spectators packed the stadium. Paraguay scored first. In the 7th minute of the game, Celso Ayala succeeded in receiving a corner kick and aimed for the goal. 41 minutes into the later half of the game, Naoki Soma completed a free kick. The game finished a draw. Though the outcome of the game was agreeable, Kazu Miura did not get to play at all, while Hidetoshi Nakata watched from the stands. Nakata has not even taken part in practices due to a skin disease.
* Japan vs. Czech Republic at International Stadium Yokohama
A whopping 66,930 were reportedly in the stands cheering on the Japanese team in its final game on May 24--that is, before leaving for the World Cup in France. It's largest ever attendance in a soccer game held in Japan. During the first half of the game, the tall Czech players were mostly in control of the ball. Japan was predominantly defending the goal. But in the later half, Japan was really picking up in its team play. Nevertheless, it was not able to get the ball into the goal. Neither did the Czech Republic-- who are number 3 in the latest FIFA ranking. The game turned out to be a 0 to 0 tie. Japan tied with Paraguay in its previous game, while the Czech team defeated Paraguay, so the Czech Republic became the winner of the 1998 Kirin Cup.
Michiyo's Note: I visited the new stadium in Yokohama for the first time. I really had a good time, not only watching the game, but the excitement firing from the fans in the stands. If one side of the stands sings "ole, ole" or "ale, ale", the other side would soon follow. One disappointment was the fact that Kazu was not given a chance to play. At least, I saw him warming up with other players. See the picture on the right.
New Yokohama Stadium opens with Dynasty Cup
Japan's largest sporting facility, the International Stadium Yokohama opened on Mar.1, on a chilly day of unexpected snow and rain. It can seat 70,000 people--that's 10,000 more than Tokyo's National Stadium. The stadium kicked off with the game between the national teams of Japan and South Korea, and attracted 59,380.
* Japan vs. South Korea on Mar. 1
30 year-old Masayuki Nakayama headed in the first goal of the game in the first 17 minutes. South Korea, caught up 3 minutes later. Then just a minute before the end of the game, Shoji Joh successfully kicks in the ball that had promptly reached him from the corner of the field. So Japan won 2 to 1.
* Japan vs. Hong Kong on Mar.4
It was an easy victory for Japan--a World Cup playing team. The team defeated Hong Kong 5 to 1. Young Japanese star, Hidetoshi Nakata of Bellmare Hiratsuka scored 2 goals and also passed a ball to Wagner Lopes for the team's final goal of the day. By the way, Kazu Miura of Verdy Kawasaki got to play for the first time in the Dynasty Cup in the 31st minute of the later half of the game. Soccer fans were delighted to see him play.
* Japan vs. China on Mar.7
It's the first time the Japan national team lost under manager Takeshi Okada. They lost 2 goals to China. Kazu Miura started this game, but was unable to aim at the goal. His position in the national team has truely become endangered. Despite the defeat, Japan has won first place in the Dynasty Cup.
An unheard of world ranking for Japan
FIFA reported on Feb. 18, that Japan is ranked number 9 in the world of soccer. This brings Japan higher than countries including Italy and Argentina. Members of the Japan Football Union have not reacted with excitement to the news, seeing reality to be much more severe. Japan's victories in the World Cup Asian preliminaries in November are believed to have put the country up high.
Antlers victorious in Emperor's Cup
The Emperor's Cup is a domestic competition where both professional and non-professional teams take part in a tournament format. It kicked off in the end of December. JFL team, Tokyo Gas did unexpectingly well. They made it to the semi-finals. The 2 teams to reach the final were both J.league teams. 97 Nabisco Cup winner Kashima Antlers were challenged by Yokohama Flugels. The outcome was a 3 to 0 victory for the Antlers.
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