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Saturday, March 8, 2008

J. LEAGUE 2008


Jubilo Iwata

Staff writer

Last season: ninth

After ushering in a new generation to replace the aging three-time champion vintage side, Jubilo has turned back the clock with the return of veteran playmaker Hiroshi Nanami.

The 35-year-old, who appeared intermittently for Tokyo Verdy in J2 last season, could rekindle his midfield partnership with Takahiro Kawamura, also returning to the club from Kawasaki Frontale.

That may stifle the progress of youngster Kota Ueda, while fellow Olympic team member Robert Cullen may also find his place on the side taken by new Brazilian buy Gilsinho.

Striker Ryoichi Maeda looks set to continue, however, and after scoring with his very first touch of the ball in his international debut against North Korea last month, the 26-year-old will be hungry for more this season.

Maeda will be joined on the Jubilo side by international teammate Yuichi Komano, who could be one of the best signings of the year.

Goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi will ensure Jubilo doesn't give away too many goals, but it remains difficult to see how the Shizuoka club can find its way back to the top table after five years without a title.

A ninth-place finish was about right for a club that has been well and truly overtaken as the J. League powerhouse, and the outlook doesn't look much better this season.

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