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2011 pre-season predictions revisited

9 Dec 2011(Fri)

One of the great whimsical joys of pre-season is testing out our Nostradamus credentials by trying to predict exactly what is going to happen over the coming year. While some may then seek to sweep their once-solid convictions quietly under the carpet when reality unfolds quite differently, it only stands to reason that any and all forecasts should later be returned to and exposed for what they really were. That is, after all, part of the fun.


With one or two notable exceptions, I like to think that I did considerably better than last year. The league table I envisaged back on 5 March correctly nominated all three of the clubs that would be relegated to J2 come December, and two of the three automatic qualifiers for the AFC Champions League. The only glaring inaccuracy as far as the really decisive positions were concerned was the identity of the champions. I was convinced by the case put forward by Nagoya Grampus for a second straight crown, but they ultimately finished a point behind the remarkable J2-J1 title double winners, Kashiwa Reysol. I had them down in 11th... but then, nobody expected them to do anything as like as well as they did.


The greatest source of frustration looking back is that I have been let down by conservatism. The logic behind my prediction that “Cerezo (Osaka) drop to ninth – and possibly lower if Vegalta Sendai and Kashiwa Reysol hit the ground running – as their slim squad battles on multiple fronts” was proven to be spot on, but I ought to have been bolder in my faith for both sets of men in yellow as Vegalta ended up in fourth, not tenth, while Cerezo sank to 12th.


There were, of course, a couple of other big mistakes. Bar the bottom two, the lower half of the table was so tight that positions were quickly interchangeable, but my expectation that Vissel Kobe would struggle appears rather rejected by their ninth place finish. Neither Sanfrecce Hiroshima nor Kawasaki Frontale contended for the ACL places as I had thought, while Yokohama F Marinos showed a far greater improvement than I felt them capable of even allowing for the late-season slump that cost them fourth.


And then there’s Urawa. After their disastrous end to 2010, I thought their quick work in rebuilding with several new arrivals would be the start of a real recovery for Japan’s most popular club. I was wrong. And how.



My 2011 J1 table predictions (actual positions in brackets)

1. Nagoya Grampus (2nd – ACL)

2. Kashima Antlers (6th)

3. Gamba Osaka (3rd – ACL)


4. Sanfrecce Hiroshima (7th)


5. Urawa Reds (15th)

6. Kawasaki Frontale (11th)

7. Yokohama F. Marinos (5th)

8. Shimizu S-Pulse (10th)

9. Cerezo Osaka (12th)

10. Vegalta Sendai (4th)

11. Kashiwa Reysol (1st – champions)

12. Albirex Niigata (14th)

13. Jubilo Iwata (8th)

14. Omiya Ardija (13th)

15. Vissel Kobe (9th)


16. Ventforet Kofu (16th – relegated)

17. Montedio Yamagata (18th – relegated)

18. Avispa Fukuoka (17th – relegated)



(This column will now go on a short hiatus until the New Year. In the meantime, look out for news on Kashiwa’s progress in the FIFA Club World Cup and on the latter stages of the Emperor’s Cup with our English-language podcast, the Football Japan Minutecast. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.)

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