Contrasting fortunes for Japan’s ACL hopefuls

A couple of weeks ago I was able to speak with Sanfrecce Hiroshima defender Ilian Stoyanov, who felt that his team were still able to make it to the round of 16 in this year’s ACL despite their poor start in the competition.


Unfortunately, despite their impressive victory over China’s Shandong Luneng, the team were eliminated from the tournament by virtue of Pohang and Adelaide’s draw in Korea – a result which saw both teams qualify.

Gamba Osaka have had a far better time of it of late though, and after achieving their first J.League win of the season against Omiya Ardija, they defeated Suwon Samsung Bluewings 2-1 ensure their participation in the next stage. They now sit at the top of Group G heading into the final matchday.

Two players from the club’s impressive youth set-up have been pivotal to this recent success, and head coach Akira Nishino is delighted with the impact they are having on the team.


With Kashima Antlers also qualified after building on their 100% record with a 1-0 win over Changchun Yatai in China, it is only Kawasaki Frontale who’s fate is still to be decided.

The team slumped to a 3-0 defeat against Urawa Reds in the J.League on Saturday – in a match that would promote the winner to the top of the table – and they must defeat Beijing Guoan a week on Wednesday if they want to join Kashima and Osaka in the next round.


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