Final game report by myself who attended the Final match in Tokyo, assisted by Gerry / @bluemumfred who comments on the 3rd-4th place play-off game
IWCC2014 Final day (3rd-4th place Play-off and Final match), Saturday 6th December, Tokyo, Japan
The 3rd-4th place Play-off and Final match of the IWCC (International Women’s Club Championship) were played in Tokyo, on Saturday 6th December, in cold but sunny weather. In my article http://protagonistasdeljuego.com/2014/12/cartas-desde-japon-finaliza-la-iwcc-tokyo/
about the semi-finals, I had expressed disappointment about the attendance. Yet again, the final attracted only 1,350 fans. This compares to the semi-finals last year, when sponsored by Mobcast, when 5,000 attended the semi-finals held on the same day but in different stadiums. In fact, even for the first round this year, held in Mimasaka, about 2,000 people atended, and these were almost all traditional Belle fans. They were well entertained, and I had written an article about that day here: http://protagonistasdeljuego.com/2014/12/cartas-desde-japon-primer-dia-de-la-iwcc-mimasaka/
Once again, I have the strong impression that the new sponsor Nestle did not aggressively promote the tournament. Despite initially hiring the girl pop group “Scandal” as a tounament image or icon, the IWCC web-site here http://iwcchampionship.com/ shows that even “news” ítems were abandoned in favor of raw score-lines. From what I know, very un-Japanese, and in any case, disappointing and difficult to understand.
3rd-4th place Play-off:
Urawa Red Ladies (Japan) 4-0 Yunogo Belle (Japan)
Both of these teams had played well in their semi-finals, and with better luck either or both teams might have qualified for the final. The clubs had met in Japan’s L-League four times this year, with Urawa winning the last three times to Belle’s initial victory. As far as I recall Belle had never beaten Urawa until last year, which shows how much Belle has progressed to challenge Japan’s top teams.
Urawa started the same squad as in the semi-final, with one exeption. It had been announced the previous day that striker Ami Otaki had been signed by Guingamp of France’s Division One, in a move clearly intended on bolstering her chances of making the World Cup 2015 squad, or perhaps the 2016 Olympics. She will leave within a week or two, missing the year-ending Empress Cup, and hopefully she still has time to integrate into her French club and make an impression on coach Norio Sasaki for Nadeshiko consideration. Although in my own opinion she is a world-class player, certainly this past year has been wasted as the Urawa coach scarcely ever started her.
As usual, Belle started the same eleven that the coach always starts! However, the Belle dependence on key players would be exposed in this game.
The game started at a fairly furious pace between the two rival clubs. Urawa had a great chance when Goto took down Wada’s cross in the box but her shot was high. At the other end Nakano twice penetrated to the end-line near goal, as usual thanks to Miyama’s passes, but her final ball into the crowded goalmouth was cleared on both occasions. Then at about 20’ it was League MVP Goto who opened the scoring for Urawa with a fluke shot which deflected viciously off Takahashi to trickle into the net.
Shortly afterwards, a superb passing movement from Belle ended when Matsuoka failed to anticipate Arimachi’s final ball which would have left the goal at her mercy. Worse was to happen for Belle about five minutes later. Just as for both of Belle’s earlier IWCC matches, GK Fuhkomoto opted to head clear well outside the PK box. Entertaining but risky, and this time she collided with Goto’s boot, injuring her face. After a delay, she was stretchered off and Belle had to bring in young reserve GK Aoyagi, who had never played a senior level game before this.
If this did not concern me enough, GK Aoyagi posed a very short figure between the Belle posts, and Urawa soon tried to test her from distance. However she showed she had a very safe pair of hands, even if her positioning against attacks looked off. So, as the game entered the second half, it still looked possible that Belle could save the day. Indeed from a corner kick at about 55’ the excellent Nakano connected with a header that only narrowly missed.
A few minutes later, Urawa increased their lead when a Saito cross was headed in by Shibata, who had evaded the Belle defenders. Belle still had chances, and a close-range free-kick by Miyama was hit well but saved by GK Ikeda. Then Urawa bought in Otaki, in possibly her last game for the club. After a close miss from a header, she took the second chance presented for a 3-0 lead. As Belle kept fighting, a late breakaway lead to Usui scoring Urawa’s fourth.
It appeared to me that the absence of GK Fuhkomoto, who as captain vocally coordinates the defence throughout every game, resulted in the Belle plan breaking down at the back. However, to play three games in seven days was probably too much for Belle, a club which has a frantic style but seldom goes to the substitute bench whether winning or losing! Their players did look tired, and up front Matsuoka in particular had a disappointing performance.
Early next year Belle should seek to attract new players, particular for the back-line, to their mountainous location in Mimasaka, and perhaps their success in winning the League regular series will help. On the other hand, in my opinion certain players at clubs such as Urawa, Beleza and other strong clubs should consider the example of Otaki in seeking to experience the speed and physicality of the western game, as the World Cup and Olympics events are just over the horizon. In fact some of the stronger clubs have large talented squads full of players that would benefit considerably from playing time at a club like Belle that needs them, and where they could learn from Aya Miyama, a player who has mastered all aspects of football like no other woman and very few men. In this respect the NWSL (USA) draft system is much superior to Japan’s as it distributes the talent evenly.
Sao Jose (Brasil) 2-0 Arsenal (England)
The game between Sao Jose and Arsenal was a tense affair, indeed with some bad temper showing during the game. was Among thespectators with about 20 gooners (the cheering squad) making noise and singing, mostly for Arsenal, but there was also a fan or two with a Brazil flag in the opposite stand.
Sao Jose started the game well and pressures Arsenal from the kick-off. It paid off quickly with Stoney gallivanting around and doing a difficult back-pass to Chamberlain who cleared as far as she could but the ball came back into the penalty are where the defenders were not tight enough on Rosanna who scored with a side-foot low show in the bottom corner. 1-0 Sao Jose 4’.
From then Sao Jose carried on asphyxiating Arsenal with their pressing and created many chances with Debinha and Giovania. This lasted for about 25 minutes and then Arsenal started to come to life after switching a few players position on the pitch mainly Sanderson and Williamson. Arsenal started to dominate and Sao Jose started to use all the trick of the trade: clever fouling, time wasting, injury simulation, all the classic stuff that you need to use to gain time. Very cynical but efficient. Sao Jose were always dangerous on the break with Arsenal starting to open and leaving loads of space behind their defence. Sanderson had one chance just before the break but it was easily saved.
Half time came with Sao Jose leading 1-0.
Arsenal started the 2nd half on the front foot trying to put pressure while Sao Jose was slowing everything down and going on the break with their quick forwards. Although Arsenal was trying to put pressure, they were not finding it easy to find space in the Sao Jose defense despite having many corners. On one of those Carter hit a shot that went off the crossbar but it was not meant to be. There were more chances created but to no avail and Pedro Losa made more changes to put an even more attacking team on the pitch. Those gaps were greatly used by Sao Jose who put a quality counter attack and a through ball where Chamberlain was late and took the player down. She was booked and the subsequent penalty was scored by Giovana and so 2-0 71’.
From there, there was no way back for Arsenal as the players could not find a way to break the excellent defense from Sao Jose who carried using the trick of trade to slow the game down which resulted in a 5 minutes added time at the end of the game. It finished 2-0 Sao Jose a logical result as they managed to hold on their early lead and add another goal on the break. Arsenal tried their best but were clearly missing real wingers in their 4-3-3 system, some creativity was also missing in certain positions. Arsenal’s effort deserved a goal but it did not happen.
Sao Jose were worthy winners but their gamesmanship was unfortunately not very good to see. Quite sad that fair play was not on order as there was no post match handshake according to Lianne Sanderson. On the other hand, the $60,000 first place prize must be a welcome boost to any Brasilian club for whom support is notoriously poor.
If we extrapolate to the World Cup chances, we cannot say much for England as not many Arsenal players these days are called up for England or make the starting eleven. Regarding Brazil, the Sao Jose players of the national squad were very tricky, quick and technically really strong, and I expect them to reach the quarter–finals of course. We will have a better idea on where they stand with the upcoming Brasilia tournament. I guess Brazil’s performance will depend on how many training camp they can organise prior to the World Cup, as this has been a weakness for them in the past.