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Saturday, March 8, 2008

J. LEAGUE 2008


Yokohama F. Marinos

Staff writer

Last season: seventh

Marinos made a raft of marquee signings before the 2007 season, but most have found themselves unceremoniously dumped going into 2008 as the former champion tries a different tack in its quest to get back into the leading pack.

Gone are World Cup 2002 striker Takayuki Suzuki and Brazilians Eltinho and Marques, replaced by Roni from Cruzeiro and the barrel-chested Lopes from Vegalta Sendai.

But it is the players already at the club that will form the core of new coach Takashi Kuwahara's side, led by national team regulars Koji Yamase and Yuji Nakazawa.

Yokohama has an excellent back line, with Yuzo Kurihara and veteran Naoki Matsuda forming a muscular unit with Nakazawa, and the strike force hit a purple patch of 11 goals within a week early last season before sticking eight past city rival Yokohama FC.

But consistency remains elusive for a team that relies heavily on Yamase to orchestrate play, and if opponents can keep the 26-year-old quiet then Marinos could struggle to unlock defenses.

Marinos fans are hankering for a return to the glory days, but they are unlikely to get their wish this year. Yokohama should be competitive, and could even creep into the top four if things go its way, but a title challenge looks some way off yet.

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