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Saturday, March 8, 2008

J. LEAGUE 2008


JEF United Chiba

Staff writer

Last season: 13th

The Osim family dynasty is dead, and the family silver has been well and truly sold off.

The writing was on the wall for JEF when Ivica Osim quit to take charge of the national team after the 2006 World Cup, and captain and inspiration Yuki Abe left shortly afterward to join Urawa Reds.

Critics predicted the drop at the beginning of last season with Osim's son, Amar, at the helm, but in truth a team stocked with internationals should have been good enough to lift the club above the unseemly place it found itself in near the bottom of the table for most of the season.

Osim Jr.'s lack of man-management skills were exposed during a row with defender Ilian Stoyanov, who issued a him-or-me ultimatum to the club before finding himself promptly shipped out to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

With Osim being fired at the end of the season anyway, JEF could have kept the Bulgarian's services, but now there are far more gaps to fill.

Naotake Hanyu, Satoru Yamagishi, Hiroki Mizumoto, Yuto Sato and Koki Mizuno — all internationals — have left, and new coach Josip Kuze has his work cut out for him to forge a cohesive unit from a bunch of raw youngsters.

Good players such as Seiichiro Maki still remain, but if the national team striker cannot improve on his paltry return of five goals last season, JEF will be in real trouble.

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