Friday 4 March 2022

Vs Urawa Reds (home) 2/3/22 J League match 10

Kawasaki Frontale 2 - 1 Urawa Reds

Well that was a bit more fun than the Super Cup. Don’t forget everyone, Urawa are going to win the league this year (according to Twitter after that game, when we were absolutely awful). Clearly Kyoto, Kobe and Gamba didn’t get the memo about that. Urawa now find themselves second bottom, with one point from four games, ahead only of FC Tokyo who’ve played just the one league game. It’s never a particularly good look when someone enjoys the misfortune of a rival, but to be honest, I’m sure everyone does it at least secretly. Or not so secretly when we lost the Super Cup final. Obviously, I don’t expect that many other J League fans recently want us to ever win. We all have our underlying feelings about and impressions of other teams which adds to the excitement of getting one over on them. The latest reason for rival fans to dislike Urawa was proudly displayed at the start of the game when they unveiled a massive flag saying ‘男なら。。。’ (basically, ‘if you’re a man…’). In recent years stupid macho bullshit has caused misery all over the world and that was probably noticed by the ‘greatest fans in Japan’ who thought they too could run with the idiocy. At the end of the game they revealed one of the longer message flags that they do. It completed the phrase stating something along the lines of ‘if you’re an Urawa man you will fight to the death’. I’m not sure if they had a different message prepared in case they won or whether we were just supposed to interpret the message differently depending on the result. I’m not sure if ‘death’ means J2, but if they continue their current form that looks like the direction they’re heading, albeit proudly clutching the Super Cup. Of course it’s early in the season, but it isn’t looking good for them, but with that in mind, at the same time it’s looking good for plenty of people who don’t like them. Perhaps the masculinity is supposed to be expressed through surrounding the ref every time a decision doesn’t go your way. In which case, well done for being very manly, Urawa players. Not sure if it’s also macho to go down clutching your face when you’ve been touched on the shoulder. The manliness of the fans was shown by a section of them singing and booing (what a surprise!) even though that is still not allowed. Of course such a rule would never work in other countries but it seems to work for pretty much every other J League team’s fans. Urawa fans are especially manly though I guess, so it’s impossible to tame such passion. Sorry that should have said ‘childishness’ not ‘passion’. My mistake! And honestly it probably should come as any kind of surprise that Urawa’s fans would be in to machismo, as they must have a flag for an almost unlimited number of synonyms of man, ranging from the youthful ‘boys’ through the up for it ‘lads’ to the French restaurant waiter-ish ‘garçons’. (All genuine flags, I was going to make some funny ones up, but to be honest, I don't think I can top 'garçons'). Clearly they want to tell us something. Anyway, I’ve probably written enough here to make Urawa fans angry (which isn’t my intention but seems to be inevitable somehow), so I’ll move on to writing something about us.

I know it’s especially difficult at the moment to interpret starting line-ups and squads. Its usual practice for us to never get any information about injuries, and especially not before line-ups are announced. Kurumaya got injured about two weeks ago and we’ve only just heard it will be at least another month out for him (dislocated shoulder apparently, thanks to FC Tokyo’s foul machine SBO). Our game against Kashima was a lot of fun, mainly due to great performances and goals from Chinen and Sasaki. Naturally both dropped out of the squad for this game… Sasaki did leave the pitch on a stretcher after an amazing full debut but I felt that there was an element of running down the clock with that change as it almost seems that Nobori was ready to come on already. Whether he was unavailable for inclusion in this game or whether it was Oniki keeping his feet on the ground I don’t know. Hopefully the latter, as even if I don’t necessarily agree with doing it, we’ll now need him in the next game as Nobori got crocked in this match, seeming to pull up whilst trying to track back. Chinen seems to have been the preferred replacement for Damiao this season with Kobayashi having to fill in in other places when he gets the chance. So it was a bit surprised to see Chinen disappear too. Oniki’s rotation has always been a bit weird and if that’s what’s happening recently, it continues to be a bit weird. Although to be honest, he’s only rotating up front it seems, as we have zero other Oniki approved options at the back and since Tachibanada is back, the midfield always seems to stay the same. Oshima disappearing from squads recently has surprised and confused some, but I’d probably say that he hasn’t been on fire really this year. But the same could definitely be said about Wakizaka and he’s keeping his place. The bench on this occasion might suggest that we have some unmentioned problems behind the scenes. Joao Schmidt was back after it seemed like he was starting another period of exile. As was Seko who seemed to be being exiled for even less reason than Joao. But as I said, we never can tell what injuries or infections there might be that we don’t know about. Having a bench of five midfielders, (which didn’t include Oshima), Kobayashi and Tanno probably wasn’t anyone’s pre-match prediction. I wonder if Oniki is now approaching games in the same way that you can start a game of Tetris with half the board full already for an extra challenge. ‘Maybe it would be fun if we tried to counter Urawa’s probable 5-5 formation with a bench full of midfielders, most of whom I have no intention of using for more than 5 minutes.’ Was great to see Tsukagawa get some more pitch time. Well it was for me anyway. Not so delighted that he was asked to fill in at left back for over an hour. It was a wobbly start but I think he really grew into it. It was a bit of a wobbly start from everyone to be honest. We didn’t look particularly comfortable again, but at least this time we left it a bit later till we conceded. It was pretty awful defending for their goal with the scorer being able to evade both Ienaga and Tachibanada by running into the gap between them. Cue Urawa reverting to the second part of their 2022 game plan, sit back and look for counter attacks. But at least in this game we were creating a little more than we did in the Super Cup. We were made to wait though, and the bulk of the excitement for us came within a few minutes of the second half when Ienaga (who was having a bit of a dodgy game again) headed in from a corner and then Yamane (who was having a bit of a dodgy game again) smashed one in a couple of minutes later. This gave us something of a confidence boost and we started playing a bit better. Confidence does seem to be something of a rare commodity for us this year. I hope that we can start games with it in the future, rather than starting on an even keel, having some calamity knock us back and then have to slowly build up to something approaching positivity. If we are wracked with injuries at the moment we should take some confidence from the fact that we’re kind of surviving right now. We aren’t playing particularly fun football for most of our games but somehow we’ve won three games out of four so that should count for something. We went in at half time in this game with 50% possession but only three shots, none on target, two yellow cards, a goal behind and with a few major let-offs, and with a defensive midfielder in the bombing-on left back position. In a way it could only get better and thankfully it did. It didn’t particularly feel like we scraped through when we got to full time and took the win though, but we’d definitely not shown ourselves at our best. And it was lovely to get some revenge for the Super Cup. Although we didn’t really turn up on that occasion so perhaps revenge is a bit of an excessively emotional word. It’ll do though!

What Frontale rabbit post would be complete with a moan about the ref? This year has been a weird one for refs it seems. Quite a lot have been extremely card happy and perhaps we can put this down to some change in the the interpretation of the rules. However, against Kashima last week we had a ref who didn’t hand out any yellows at all. Perhaps this was the Yuma Suzuki effect though. Given that he’s been the recipient of some very generous decisions so far this year perhaps refs will now view any incident he’s involved in with a bit of cynicism. But not sure why that would work both ways for both teams though. But anyway, that was last week’s game. In this match we had Sato, in charge of his third match of the season. He seems to clearly be in the card happy group of refs, giving out 10 yellows and sending off two players in three games. Once again the shitness of a ref seems to be uniting both sets of fans. Urawa fans complained that Damiao wasn’t sent off. In my opinion, this is an absolutely bat shit crazy opinion but at the same time I’m not surprised that Urawa fans would hold it. I’m not going to complain about the Taniguchi or Chanathip bookings but the ones for Tsukagawa and Kobayashi seemed pretty insane. Tsukagawa fell over, the Urawa player then tripped over Tsukagwaa and won the free kick that they scored from and got Tsukagawa booked. Unless Tsukagawa has a previous reputation for attempting to tackle with his head or by throwing himself to the floor for the opposition to trip over, I can’t see why the foul was even given. Kobayashi’s was equally ridiculous. He also fell over and the ball hit his supporting arm, which as far as I know isn’t even supposed to count as a free kick, let alone a yellow card. I can to some extent understand the former, but the latter seems just stupid. But then again we are talking about a ref so if the cap fits… But never mind eh? The ref was again awful but we won, and if Urawa fans are going to get their knickers in a twist about how cheated they were when I feel that they were given pretty much everything, well, I’m just going to enjoy their irritation. But don’t cry guys. Real men don’t cry I’ve heard.

One last thing I wanted to ask, which I’m just going to stick to the top of this conclusion paragraph is whether the league wide font that the J League has introduced is absurdly difficult to read or is that just me? Answers on a postcard please. Next up we have a trip to Gamba on Sunday. Because of COVID, it’s been ages since we’ve been able to go to the Suita stadium so I’m really looking forward to it. Gamba beat Urawa 1-0 and we beat them 2-1, so I guess it’s going to be an even game. (Or is everyone going to beat Urawa this year?). It will be interesting to see what happens when the starting line up wheel gets spun again. I’m not going to predict anything because… well what’s the point really. There are way too many unknowns at the moment. Fingers crossed we can start the game well and retain some of the confidence we discovered in the second half of this game.

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
DF 31. YAMAMURA Kazuya
DF 5. TANIGUCHI Shogo (Yellow card 45')
MF 14. WAKIZAKA Yasuto
MF 18. CHANATHIP (Yellow card 63')
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 19. TONO Daiya

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki (Yellow card 32') (on for NOBORIZATO 26')
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (Yellow card 81') (on for TONO 76')
MF 16. SEKO Tatsuki
MF 17. KOZUKA Kazuki (on for CHANATHIP 76')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

I’m not picking this player because I’m biased. But I am biased, so if you want to interpret it that way please feel free to. It must go to…

TSUKAGAWA Koki - rarely starts and but always gives 100%. Apparently has never played left back even in training and after a slightly nervous start, really did a job there in difficult circumstances. Bravo!

IWANAMI (Urawa) 33' 0-1
IENAGA (Frontale) 62' 1-1
YAMANE (Frontale) 64' 2-1



  1. I discovered your blog last week and I'm really enjoying it so far. Keep up the good work rabbit

  2. Thanks for the comment! I'm glad some people are enjoying the blog!