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Saturday, March 3, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: 6th
Manager: Oswaldo Oliveira (Brazil)
Prospects: top 3
One to watch: Fabao, voted the best right-sided central defender in Brazilian soccer in 2006.
The Paulo Autuori experiment lasted just one year before the Antlers decided he wasn't worth the million-dollar salary. Even so, his time wasn't a complete disaster: sixth place, Nabisco Cup finalists and Emperor's semifinalists. Not a bad first season all in all, but not good enough for Kashima.
Enter Oliveira, who like Autuori with Sao Paulo, was a World Club Championship-winning coach, with Corinthians in 2000. He has done the rounds in Brazil, also coaching Fluminense and, most recently, Cruzeiro, among others.
Things should be about to get better: Antlers have signed Fabao and Danilo from Sao Paulo, both members of the Autuori's 2005 Club World Championship winners who beat Liverpool in the Tokyo final. Danilo was voted one of the top three left midfielders in the Brazilian League last season and both are class additions to the team.
Alex Mineiro has been released, and with just 10 goals last season won't be missed that much. His direct replacement, Marquinhos, scored 11 times for Shimizu S-Pulse in 2006 and has experienced life in the J. League with Tokyo Verdy, Yokohama F. Marinos and JEF United Chiba.
Marquinhos' partner should be Atsushi Yanagisawa and the ex-national team player, who hardly set the league alight after returning from Italy last season, will be hoping to find the net more often.
Kashima also offloaded veteran defender Akira Narahashi, although the former Japan international had not seen much action in recent years.
Meanwhile, Yasuto Honda has decided to end his playing career after 14 seasons after the club left him out of plans for the 2007 season.
Also, midfielder Takuya Nozawa will be out of action for two months after sustaining a knee injury. Nozawa, who was called up for Japan's first training camp of the year earlier this month, damaged ligaments in his left knee in a preseason game against Mito Hollyhock and has had to undergo surgery. (J.M.)