“Start of the 2nd journey”, preview of opening game against Kashima  

“Team Finke” will kick off its 2nd season of the J.League at 4 pm on 6th March.

Urawa Reds’ first opponent is rival Kashima Antlers. It is the 2nd consecutive year Red will face Kashima Antlers at Kashima Soccer Stadium in the opening game. What is more, Reds’ last opponent in 2009 was Kashima. It is a fated confrontation. As Reds lost the last 2 games against Kashima Antlers, the opening game will be a very special and passionate game for Reds.

One of the notable themes in this perfect situation is that this game will be measure of Team Finke’s development. Reds have worked on the revolution in team’s fundamental strategy such as “from 3 back to 4 back” and “from individual to team work” since we welcomed Team Manager Volker Finke from Germany. The team has gone through the tough time and improved since then.

Last year’s opening game against Antlers which was held in March was when Reds just started the revolution. Reds astonished the audience with their smooth passing in the first 20 minutes but looking back at the game, Antlers was fully in control (with the score line of 2-0).

However, this season will be different because Reds have improved since last year. Tadaaki Hirakawa who has experienced the frustration of losing in last season’s opening game says, “I am happy to face Kashima in the opening game. I can pay back a debt to them”. Sergio who has grown both mentally and physically says, “Our defence has improved since last year. We will not make the same mistake again.”

Antlers who is the first team to win the league for 3 consecutive years will have slight changes in terms of first team players. Offensive midfielder Fellype Gabriel who has experience playing for the Brazil U-20 national team will replace Masashi Motoyama and Korea national player Lee Jung Soo who joined Antlers this season, will enhance the defensive midfield together with Daiki Iwamasa.

However, there is some concern as well. Fellype Gabriel is not fully fit and Gilton, a left back, who moved from Albirex Niigata on loan, is yet to gel into the team. Besides that, Atsuto Uchida who plays right back, has been playing in the AFC Champions league, Xerox Super Cup and Japan national team games recently and is tired. We will still have a chance and just need to watch out for it. We have to put pressure on Mitsuo Ogasawara who is their playmaker. A mixture of short passes and fast long passes can create chances.

In the past, Reds have faced Antlers in the league opening game on 22nd March 2003 (loss 1-3: goal, Nobuhisa Yamada), 5th March 2005 (loss 0-1) and 7th March 2009 (loss 0-2). This year will be the 4th time. Reds also lost (0-1) in the last game in the 2009 season which was held on 5th December 2009 although Reds have improved much since March 2009. To rub salt into wounds, Reds had to see their winning celebration after the game. That is why we cannot lose to them.

Team Manager Finke expresses his will as
“There are many big trees. If we can climb up one, we want to climb all.”
Team Finke that aims to advance further starts its 2nd journey soon.
【Urawa Reds Official Media (URD : OM) 】