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ACL Round 4 Opposition Research: FC Tokyo

Once again we sit down with Dan from the FC Tokyo blog, On the Gas, to take a look at how FC Tokyo’s been doing since their visit to Beijing. Guoan absolutely needs to get all three points from the match if they want to have any hope of advancing beyond the group stage.

: First off, I know you made the trip to Beijing, can you tell us a little about it and how the experience compares to a match in Japan?
Dan: It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced as a supporter in Japan, that’s for sure. The atmosphere at Workers’ Stadium was a bit different… especially in respect to there being several separate distinct cheering sections (the back stand, behind the home goal, upper home end of the front stand, upper and lower away end of the main stand, upper end of the back stand… did I miss any?).

I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched a North Korea home game in Pyongyang, but that’s the only reference point I have to an atmosphere that’s interesting and yet doesn’t quite feel right… I don’t mean to compare Beijing to Pyongyang, but just to say that it didn’t quite feel normal (as opposed to NK-Japan which didn’t feel normal at all).

The amount of security, searches, etc was also a change of pace, but everyone in our end had a good sense of humor about it and a bit of fun was poked, although at one point they discouraged us from waving at the home supporters? In any case we were allowed drums and a banner and had a grand old time.

(also I’m on my laptop but once I get to my comp I’ll send you some of my pics)

: I’m sure we have different thoughts on the match, though I admit that was a very soft penalty kick, what did you think of the match?
Dan:I think Guoan played the aggressive brand of Chinese football we all expected them to play, Tokyo struggled early on and gave as good as they got, and the referee generally did a mediocre or worse job of keeping control of things. The PK was bullshit and I think we would have deserved three points had we taken them, but given the atmosphere and circumstances we’re glad to have gotten the draw.

: Over the past two weeks since coming to Beijing, how is FC Tokyo doing in J-League?
Dan:It’s been up and down – four days after the match we traveled to Kawasaki Frontale for the Tamagawa Classico, and despite losing Aria Jasuru Hasegawa to *another* red card we fought off Frontale with 10 men and won the match with a last-minute Masato Morishige header off a corner kick.

Then this past Saturday, the temps dropped down to about 9-10C with heavy rain and we played Kashima Antlers at home. Generally horrible game, as we lost GK Shuichi Gonda in the first half after a collision w/ an Antlers player. Lots of sloppy play on both sides and aggressive play by Antlers (7 of theirs got cautions), but the referee in general was horrible. Two back passes to the goalkeeper resulted in free kicks at the 6-meter line; Antlers didn’t convert theirs but we did to even the game at 1-1. Then they scored the winning goal in additional time after we got soft. Shitty loss but given the weather and injuries and etc…

: Will the lineup look the same as it was a fortnight ago in Beijing?
Dan: Gonda won’t be between the posts, but super-backup Hitoshi Shiota will. I would without question describe him as the best backup goalkeeper in Japan; he could easily start for any J2 team and there are at least a handful of J1 teams that would sign him if given the chance.

Kajiyama is still recovering from a fever… Popovic said he’s improving but doesn’t see the need to force him to play, so I would say he’ll be a bench player at best.

There’s also speculation that Sota Hirayama will finally get a start… I don’t know how true that is, but you never know.

Here’s my XI:
Watanabe (Hirayama?)
Ishikawa, Yazawa, Hanyu
Takahashi, Yonemoto
Ota, Jang, Morishige, Tokunaga

: What can the small contingent of Chinese fans who are travelling to Tokyo expect?

Dan: They aren’t opening the food court or the bouncy castle, but traveling Guoan fans and exchange students the club is fronting the tickets for can expect great facilities at Ajinomoto. They’ve really stepped it up when it comes to the food offerings. And don’t forget the jumbotrons that can be seen by everyone, clean seats that don’t need a newspaper to cover them, and lack of riot police (although they may have guards ringing the Beijing fans just to be on the safe side.

: Finally, predictions?

Dan: Tokyo wins 1-0 or 2-1, though I’d like to see a huge win for the GD. That plus an Ulsan-Roar draw would all but guarantee we move on to the Round of 16, so here’s hoping for good results all around!

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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