Toyota Cup: Manchester United vs Palmeiras
The ticket to the 20th Toyota Cup on Nov. 30 sold out in an hour and a half. Over 53,000 fans packed the National Stadium to see the Brazilian and English club team champs. The top favorite among the crowd was no doubt Mr. Victoria Spice alias David Beckam. When Beckam had the ball, the whole stadium was in a whirlpool of flashes. Both sides played aggressively. It was in the first 35th minute that Roy Keane of Manchester kicked the ball lightly into the goal. Palmeiras found many opportunities to aim for the goal in the later half, but could not quite score. The game finished 1 to 0 for Manchester. South America lost to a European club champion for the 4th straight time.

Sydney Olympic Games Asian Finals
* Japan vs. Thailand on November 13
The final game was held in Thailand. It wasn't easy for Japan throughout the game. Still, in the 1st half, Japan scored 3 goals. All by Tomoyuki Hirase of Kashima Antlers. In the later half, Japan succeeded in another 3 goals, clinching the game 6 to 0. Japan won all games its played in the Olympic preliminaries.
* Japan vs. Kazakhstan on November 6
Some fans were already lining up 3 days before the game. Even if Japan finishes a draw in the game, its berth to the Olympics will be secured. But during the first half of the game, Japan's under 22 year olds were stiff. And in the 29th minute, it lost a goal to Kazakhstan. In the later half, Hidetoshi Nakata of Italy's Perugia helped make the way to a goal for Japan. He passed the ball to Tomoyuki Hirase of Kashima Antlers who headed it in to mark Japan's first goal 24 minutes into the later half. Then in the 40th minute, Hirase shot the ball inside the goal. It's his overall 15th goal in the preliminaries. Just before the game was over, Shunsuke Nakamura succeeded an artistic free kick. Japan not only clinched the game 3 to 1, but had won the ticket to Sydney. It'll be Japan's 6th shot at the Olympics in soccer.
* Japan vs. Thailand on October 17
A turnout of 54,678 crowded Tokyo's National Stadium. Tomoyuki Hirase of Kashima Antlers appeared in the later half of the game. He, to everyone's surprise achieved 2 goals. Japan won 3 to 1.
* Japan vs. Kazakhstan on October 9
In Kazakhstan, Japan was able to play well. And it was Hidetoshi Nakata who kicked in the first goal, 24 minutes into the game. It was a beautiful shot. In the latter 41st minute, Junichi Inamoto was there for to receive Hide's corner kick, and successfully put it into the goal. Japan won 2 to 0.

Maezono will go to Portugal
Masakiyo Maezono has signed with Portugal's pro team it was disclose Oct. 15. His contract begins on Jan. 1,2000 and will last for 3 years. His annual contract is estimated to be 1.6 million yen. Maezono was on a rented by Verdy Kawasaki to Brazil's Goias from Jan. this year. But he decided he did not want to be on rental contract any longer.

Nanami starts with Venezia
Hiroshi Nanami for the first time was among the starting members of Venezia on Sept. 19. But in the 22nd minute of the later half, he was replaced. What was bad was, Venezia lost to AS Rome 1 to 3.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs Iran
Japan and Iran faced was matched up at Yokohama International Stadium on Sept. 8. It's the last time Japan's national team played together this year. Nakata was not part of the squad. Japan had a hard time getting though Iran's tough defense. But in the first 10 minutes, it scored a goal--with the ball bounding off an Iranian player. The opposing team caught up with a successful free kick, and ended a draw.

Japan - South Korea friendly match
Under 22 teams of Japan and South Korea fought eachother at Tokyo's National Stadium on Sept. 7. But this was not an important game to lead the way to Sydney Olympics. It was, however, significant to test the teams coordination to prepare for the Asian finals in Oct. Hidetoshi Nakata of Perugia joined the young Japanese team for the first time, In the beginning, his teammates could not catch up with the balls he passed. Little by little, combination improved. In the end, Japan won 4 to 1.

Nanami plays first game with Venezia
Hiroshi Nanami was called to play in the middle of the 1st game of the season on Aug. 29. He helped the team score in the 26th minute. Then he was the one to try out the goal directly in the 28th minute, but was hindered. Venezia and Udinese tied 1 to 1. It was a great debut for Nanami.

Japan in Copa America
* Japan vs.Peru on June 29
Japan for the first time joined the Copa America. To eveyone's surprise, Japan scored first. And the one to do so was Brazilian born Wagnar Lopes. In the later half, Peru reversed the game, but then Japan caught up with a goal by Atsuhiro Miura. Peru then added in another goal for a 3 to 2 win. Although Japan lost it's the most the national team scored led by Frenchman Philippe Troussier
* Japan vs.Paraguay on July 2
Japan was totally overwhelmed by Paraguay. From the beginning, Paraguay players aggressively clashed into the Japanese counterparts. They scored 4 goals and Japan failed to earn any.
* Japan vs.Bolivia on July 5
Wagnar Lopes's penalty kick got caught inside the Bolivian goal. Japan caught up with Bolivia. But with Masami Ihara taken out of the game soon after Japan could not score any more.

Sydney Olympic Games Asian Preliminaries in Japan
* Japan vs. Nepal on June 26
Atsushi Yanagisawa, star player of the Kashima Antlers scored for the first time as a member of the Olympic trial team. He kicked in 2 goals. Japan clinched the game 9 to 0.
* Japan vs. Malaysia on June 28
Yanagisawa was nowhere in sight. He was expelled from the Olympic trial team for breaking a team rule. He apparently sneaked out of camp late in the evening to see his girlfriend. The Japan Football Association on finding out, discussed what kind of punishment he should receive with manager Philippe Troussier. That was the decision. The game however was not affected by Yanagisawa's absence. Japan won 4 to 0.
* Japan vs. Hong Kong on July 2
Japan clinched this game too, 2 to 0. It was the closest game played during the preliminaries. Japan so far has played a perfect round and secured a berth in the Asian finals.
* Japan vs.the Philippines on July 4
Japan clinched another whooping win against the Philippines. But a tragedy occurred. Team captain Shinji Ono was knocked down, and it was learned later that he ripped his ligament behind his left knee. He's undergoing surgery on July 6, and is highly likely will not be able to play in the final Asian round.

Sydney Olympic Games Asian Preliminaries in Hong Kong
* Japan vs. the Philippines on June 12
Most Japanese soccer fans had no doubt Japan could win this game. But Japan scored far more than anybody expected. In the first half, Japan kicked in 6 goals. In the later half, even more, or 7 goals. It's the second highest score in an international soccer match.
* Japan vs. Nepal on June 14
Japan didn't load the game with goals as much as the previous one. The total goal was 5 against 0.
* Japan vs. Malaysia on June 16
In the first 7th minute, Japan scored. But that was all in the 1st half of the game. Then in the later half, Masashi Motoyama kicked in a pass from Atsushi Yanagisawa. Shinji Ono also scored to give Japan a 4 to 0 win over Malaysia.
* Japan vs. Hong Kong on June 18
It appeared that Japan would again win without losing any goals again. But in the very last minute of the game, Hong Kong scored. The final score was 4 to 1 for Japan. The 1st stage of the preliminaries ended with this game, and Japan stands first in the round by far.

Nanami signs with Venezia
On June 8, Jubilo Iwata's Hiroshi Nanami officially signed a 3-year contract with Italy's Venezia. That's for 300 million yen. Under the agreement, the mid-fielder will be on lease the first year. 26-year old Nanami is a national player.

Kirin Cup
* Japan vs. Belgium at Tokyo's National Stadium
Many Japanese fans were thrilled to see Hidetoshi Nakata play on June 3. He's just finished the season with Perugia in Italy's Serie A. He did show great pass techniques. But the Japanesse national players were not quick enough to handle the pass. Both sides had chances to attack the goal, but the game ended scoreless.
* Japan vs. Peru at International Stadium Yokohama
There were 67,354 excited fans on June 6. But again, Japan failed to complete any goal. Neither was Peru able to goal. Japan finished the Kirin Cup last.

Jubilo clinches Asian Club Championship
There were 100,000 in the stadium of the Asian Club Championship held in Tehran, Iran. Japan's Jubilo Iwata faced the host Esteghlal. Jubilo was the first to score. In the 36th minute, Hideto Suzuki kicked in a free kick from national player Hiroshi Nanami. Then it was Nanami who kicked in a goal for a 2 to 0 lead. In the end, Jubilo was victorious 2 to 1. It's the first time since the J.League was launched that Japan became the Asian club champion.

Japan's youth team welcomed home
Early Apr. 28, 15 members of Japan's national youth team returned to Japan from Nigeria via France. About 200 fans welcomed the finalists back at Narita Airport along with officials of the Japan Football Association. The members thereafter visited Prince Takamado's residence, Minister of Education, and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. Some even decided to join their teams to play in the nights J-league. Others, including Shinji Ono made TV appearances.

Japan's feat in World Youth Championship in Nigeria
Japan for the first time advanced to the final tournament by defeating England 2 to 0 in their pool on Apr. 11. It had a tragic start. On Apr.5, Japan scored first, but Cameroon reversed the game and clinched it 2 to 1. Earlier, Japan defeated the U.S. 3 to 1 and that gave the team hope. In the championship round, Japan faced Portugal on Apr.15. The game went into a PK with the score 1 to 1. Japan won, and proceeded to another round against Mexico. The game against Mexico on Apr. 18 went well. In the first half, Shinji Ono of Urawa Red headed in a goal and defeated Mexico 2 to 0. Then on Apr.21, Japan faced Uruguay. Japan was the first to goal in the first 23rd minute. Uruguay soon caught up, but Japan, in the 37th minute raced ahead. Japan's goalkeeper Minami contributed by keeping Uruguay from completing goals. The team won 2 to 1. It's the first time Japan's advancing to the final. Unfortunately, Shinji Ono who was given his 2nd yellow card for having been reluctant to throw in the ball quickly from the side did not get to play in the final. That may be one of the reasons why Japan was not able to play a competitive game against Spain. Already in the 1st half, Spain completed 3 goals. It added another in the later half. Japan was unable to score at all. Despite the result, it was a great championship for Japan. Clinching second place is the best performance ever for the nation in a world class championship. Masashi Motoyama and Shinji Ono were selected among the best eleven.

Japan vs. Brazil
Hidetoshi Nakata was back from Italy to join the national team to face Brazil on Mar.31. He was marked strongly by the Brazilians so was kept from contributing to the team. In the 13th minute, Hiroshi Nanami had the ball but lost it to Amoroso and was goaled. Then 3 minutes into the later half, Emerson headed in a goal. Japan lost 2 to 0 in front of a crowd of 53,903 at Tokyo's National Stadium. Japan has never defeated Brazil. But South Korea has--in fact, a couple of days before this it's won 1 to 0.

Kazu's 2nd game in Croatia
Zagreb played again Slaben on Feb. 21. Kazu started in the Croatian league for the 2nd straight time. In the first 20 minutes, Kazu kicked the ball into the goal--but it was not a valid goal. It was called offside. Kazu was replaced in the second half of the game. As for the result, Croatia won 2 to 1.

Kazu's debut in Croatia
On Feb. 17, Kazu Miura played his first official game with Zagreb-- defending champion of the Croatian league. He played against Mladosto which ranks 11th in the league. About 4000 were in the stand. 60 were Japanese. In the 43th minute, Kazu was given a PK chance. The ball slipped to the left side of the goal though. 11 minutes into the later half, Kazu dribbled the ball using his Brazilian taught technique, passed it and was goaled. He assisted a goal. As a result, Zagreb won 3 to 0.

Former Flugels fan club forms idea for a new team
Fans of the team that's been merged with Yokohama Marinos-- Yokohama Flugels was so upset about the incident that they decided that they could run a team themselves. So they founded their own team--Yokohama Fulie Sports Club. On Feb. 7, they announced that former Japanese ace striker Yasuhiko Okudera will be the new team's general manager, while former German ace, Pierre Littbarski agreed to skipper it. On Feb. 12, Japan Soccer Association decided to support the team to recognition. There are still many hurdles the new club must clear. The idea so far is that Yokohama Fulie will not have to start from the very bottom of the hierarchy, but as an associate member of the JFL or the non-professional league which is the 3rd division after the J.League levels of J1 and J2. JFL currently has 8 teams. It's season begins on April 18.

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