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Saturday, March 3, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: 5th
Manager: Adilson (Brazil)
Prospects: Even better than last year, in terms of points if not position
One to watch: Bobby Cullen, goal-scoring midfielder with Northern Irish father, Japanese mother.
Former Jubilo defender Adilson, who also played for the Brazilian national team, has had a galvanizing effect on Jubilo since taking the reins from Masakuni Yamamoto and the team had a storming end to last season.
It's down to the changing of the guard since Adilson's arrival: the switch from the Jubilo veterans who had brought the team success in the past but were waning quickly. Hiroshi Nanami and Toshihiro Hattori are two old-timers who have finally been put to the sword.
Big names also have gone: Takashi Fukunishi to FC Tokyo, while defender Takayuki Chano will be missed.
There is still class throughout the team, though. Players who should shine even more than they did last year are Ryoichi Maeda, the lively forward who was top scorer for Jubilo in 2006 with 15 goals, and Yoshiaki Ota (nine goals).
Cullen knows where the net is, too, and will be hoping to score more this season after being top scorer with 13 in 2005.
A major boost will be the return of the brilliant left-sided midfielder Shinji Murai, who should be recovered from a long-term injury in time for the start of the new season.
Bulky Brazilian Marquinhos Parana, signed from Figuerense, should be Fukunishi's midfield replacement.
The icing on the cake for Jubilo is Japan's No. 1 'keeper, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. But if all goes to plan, Iwata won't be calling on him as much this season as in the past. (J.M.)