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Saturday, March 3, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: 3rd
Manager: Akira Nishino
Prospects: Challenging for the title again.
One to watch: Bare, a top-notch forward who has pace and power to spare.
You get the impression no one at Urawa is on Nishino's Christmas card list. The look on the Gamba man's face after the New Year's Day-light robbery at National Stadium (Urawa's Emperor's Cup victory) was a mixture of bafflement, disgust and despair -- and that just a few weeks after the Reds had pipped Gamba to the title.
Nishino wants revenge, and while he must have relished the 4-0 thrashing Gamba handed out in the 2007 season curtain-raising Xerox Super Cup, wrestling the title back from Urawa can only really suffice.
One of the canniest deals of the off-season will help in this quest: the signing of Bare from Ventforet Kofu, which creates a mouthwatering attacking triumvirate of said Brazilian, Ryuji Bando and Magno Alves. The trio scored 56 league goals last season.
However, the three-pronged attack may prove to be just a tad too rich a mix and they could get in each other's way. Bear in mind the two Brazilians are "individualists" (i.e. ball-greedy). Then again, Nishino's plan could be to utilize one of them from the bench in some sort of rotation policy.
Everything seems shipshape then for a renewed assault on the title, although central defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, gone to Red Bull Salzburg, will be missed. Well, by the female fans at least, because Nishino was never really convinced by the swoon-some ex-national team captain.
Nishino added a defender in Sota Nakazawa, on a one-year loan deal from Kashiwa Reysol. (J.M.)