Thursday, August 31, 2017

Japan Qualify For 2018 FIFA World Cup

SAITAMA – National team manager Vahid Halilhodzic took a swipe at his critics after guiding Japan to a place at the 2018 World Cup with a 2-0 win over Australia on Thursday night, before revealing that an unspecified issue in his private life almost forced him to miss the game.

“To the journalists, maybe not all of you but I’m sure that some of you wanted me out of my job,” said Halilhodzic, who local media had reported would be fired if Japan failed to beat Australia.

“I might remain, I might not. But in either case, I want to praise the team. I’m very proud of them tonight. We have faced a lot of difficulties and challenges but they were like heroes tonight. We were playing against a quality team and I think this has set a standard.”

Japan qualified for a sixth straight World Cup with a game to spare after beating Asian champion Australia with a goal in each half from Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi in front of a crowd of 59,492 at Saitama Stadium.

The result marked a personal vindication for Halilhodzic following heavy criticism throughout a final-round qualifying campaign that began with a 2-1 home defeat to the United Arab Emirates, but the Bosnian revealed that his mind had been on other matters in the buildup to the game.

“I have been facing a major issue in my private life,” said the 64-year-old. “You might not know, but because of that problem, before the match I was thinking of returning home. It’s a major issue that I have. But I felt I had a responsibility to the supporters of the team, and when all the criticism started I tried to stand strong because that is my character.”

Defender Maya Yoshida said that the players had been unaware that Halilhodzic was facing a personal problem.

But the Southampton man was happy to lay two ghosts to rest as Japan finally beat Australia in a World Cup qualifying game for the first time in eight attempts, and became the first team to recover from losing its first game of the current Asian final-round format to reach the finals.

“He didn’t say anything to us, and I couldn’t see any attitude,” said Yoshida. “He was just normal.

“I think we have done very well – 2-0 against Australia, who we didn’t win against in the whole of the history of qualification. And also the team who lost their first game hadn’t been able to qualify. Those two points lifted the whole team up and that kind of motivation is very important for myself and the rest of the players as well.”

Halilhodzic raised eyebrows by including 21-year-old Ideguchi and 22-year-old Asano in the starting lineup, but both players repaid his confidence with well-taken goals. Asano volleyed home a Yuto Nagatomo cross to give Japan the lead in the 41st minute, before Ideguchi made the game safe with a scorching shot from the edge of the box with eight minutes left to play.

“The young players played today and got the experience, and that helps to revitalize the team and provide competition for places,” said Japan captain Makoto Hasebe. “None of the players have grabbed their ticket to the World Cup yet.

“If you look at what the manager did with Algeria at the last World Cup, in all three group games he used a lot of players. No player’s place in the team is assured. If you look at that in a good way, it means everyone has a chance.”

Japan is now assured of finishing top of Group B but still has one fixture remaining against Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on Sept. 5. Two teams qualify automatically, with the third-place team going into a playoff.

The Saudis and Australia are both behind Japan on 16 points. The Saudis lead on goal difference by two goals but Australia has the easier final game on paper, against bottom side Thailand in Melbourne.

Australia manager Ange Postecoglou lost key midfielder Aaron Mooy to illness on the morning of Thursday’s game, and admitted that Japan deserved the win.

“It wasn’t far from what we expected, maybe a couple of individuals in terms of the way they played,” said Postecoglou. “We just never got control of the midfield the way we wanted to. We had possession but not real effective possession. We turned the ball over in transition and they’ve got the ability to hit you quickly.

“We’re now in a position where we need to win the game and then rely on the other result, which is the position we didn’t want to be in but that’s the position we’re in. So we’ll just go out there on Tuesday night and try to impose ourselves on the game, perform well and hopefully get the right result.”

ISML 2017: OreImo's Stock Dropping Fast

ISML 2017: OreImo's Stock Dropping Fast

By Jo-Ryan Salazar
The Bedlam on Baltic Avenue
August 31, 2017

Match Day 8 of the 2017 Internstional Saimoe League Sapphire Period is history, and it is clear that OreImo is one of the big losers from this tournament, alongside Love Live!. In the Female Division, Kurumi Tokisaki outdueled Shino Asada 1377-885, Rikka Takanashi rolled past Tsukiko Tsutsukakushi 1311-726, Azusa Nakano romped past Miyuki Shiba 1056-955, Shiro stormed past Yui Yuigahama 1289-919, Taiga Aisaka roared past Yui Hirasawa 1301-749, Sora Kasugano delivered the Upset of the Round, a 1121-976 decision over Ayase Aragaki, Yukino Yukinoshita defeated Eriri Sawamura Spencer 1175-1017 and Yoshino silenced C.C. 1299-951.

Isla crushed Eucliwood Hellscythe 1037-829, Saber slashed past Chiyo Sakura 1292-1007, Nao Tomori routed Beatrice 1328-820, Iroha Isshiki smashed Yuuki Konno 1108-939, Rin Tohsaka slapped Nanami Aoyama around 1534-854, Megumi Katou thrashed Shinobu Oshino 1507-728, and Inori Yuzuriha chomped up Holo 1199-903.

In the Male Division, Archer dominated Sakamoto 1243-836, Edward Elric defeated Killua Zoldyck 1063-587, Sadao Mao prevailed over Umetarou Nozaki 904-814, Taki Tachibana belted Izayoi Sakamaki 1237-812, Touma Kamijou broke Shizuo Heiwajima 1084-690, Bell Cranel defeated Makoto Naegi 885-717, Nagisa Shiota routed Sorata Kanda 1162-836 and Yuuta Togashi whipped past Izaya Orihara 1119-715.

Genos punched Seiya Kanie 904-811, Kiritsugu Emiya drubbed Saika Totsuka 1126-860, Shirou Emiya annihilated Shuu Ouma 1166-710, Lancer impaled Taihei Doma 1118-863, Souma Yukihira defeated Tatsuya Shiba 966-835, Felix Argyle won the closest race of the round, a 997-909 barnburner over Monkey D. Luffy and Shidou Itsuka barreled past Light yagami 1105-846.

In Spring Seasonal action, it was a clean sweep as Elf Yamada routed Rin Onigawara 1645-381 and Muramasa Senjuu drubbed Sana Kashimura 1371-463.

Match Day 9 of the 2017 International Saimoe League Sapphire Perios is scheduled for September 1, 2017. Vote for your favorite characters at and join the ongoing debate.