J1 Matchweek 3 Viewer’s Guide: Clash in Hiroshima could bring goals and fireworks
Just a couple weeks into the new MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season and already the picture of the competition is getting clearer. Unsurprisingly, the defending champions Kawasaki Frontale look excellent and are the odds on favorite to top the league, while Nagoya Grampus look like the top challengers. Sagan Tosu are off to a great start, though, and maybe they are poised to break into the top four. Meanwhile, both of the newly promoted sides are looking up to the task of the top flight.
What will we be looking for in Matchweek 3?
Match to Watch
Kawasaki Frontale are the top scoring team, with 10 goals from three games, but if you want to see a match filled with goals on both ends, not to mention late thrills, you could hardly do better than Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.
Sanfrecce have played to a pair of draws this season, both of which included last minute equalizers. In their opener, Sanfrecce capitulated with a last gasp goal against 10-man Vegalta Sendai. Their solution in Matchweek 2 was to build themselves a two-goal lead, but that also evaporated as Yokohama F·Marinos came rampaging back for a 3-3 draw.
Meanwhile, Consadole showed just how terrifying their attack can be when they scored five in their first match of the season. The full team performance was a treat, as forwards and midfielders interchanged beautifully. They scored from deep possession, on quick counterattacks and with high pressing. It was a masterclass in varied, inventive attacking prowess as Anderson Lopes and Chanathip Songkrasin led the way.
Both of these teams can do major damage with the ball and have the ability to score in bunches, or even concede at the worst of times. That’s a perfect setup for a thrilling match, and that’s what we could get in Hiroshima.
Player to Watch
It’s only been three matches, but Yoshito Okubo already has four goals to his name. The 38-year-old has been sensational since joining from Tokyo Verdy in the winter and Cerezo Osaka has needed each of his goals. Cerezo’s defense has not been at its best, with six goals in behind them already this season, so the attack has had to shine bright to keep them afloat and Okubo has risen to the occasion.
Cerezo is welcoming Shimizu S-Pulse and their high flying attack to Nagai Stadium this week, so odds are the Sakura will have to pour in goals if they want to take three points. That will put pressure on Okubo to keep banging in goals, but if the last few weeks are any indication, he will do just that.
Storyline to Watch
It’s far too early in the season to get caught up in the relegation battle, but turn your eyes to the bottom of the table and you see Yokohama FC, Kashima Antlers and Shonan Bellmare
Yokohama FC has really struggled all over the pitch. They’ve only managed two goals, but have conceded seven - the most in the league. The possession game hasn’t quite been there either. Certainly Yokohama FC are going to improve, and a match against Urawa Reds could give them a chance to set things right.
Kashima Antlers’ place towards the bottom isn’t entirely fair. They’ve only played one match so far due to a postponed contest against Gamba Osaka, but it is still unusual to see them anywhere but challenging the top of the table. Their opening match wasn’t great as their defense fell apart late and let Shimizu S-Pulse to score three to overturn a Kashima lead. With fresh legs after the weekend off and a chance to notch their first points of the season, expect them to come out flying with another points-less side Shonan Bellmare visiting.
Shonan Bellmare have actually defended pretty well, but the attack hasn’t clicked yet. Going away to a well-rested team isn’t usually ideal for turning things around, but if they can find an early goal, that might just be the spark they need.
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec.3, Gamba Osaka vs. Oita Trinita postponed
J.LEAGUE has announced the match below has been postponed after more cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Gamba Osaka and to prevent further spread of the virus.
Further details of the match postponed will be announced when determined.
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec. 3
|Panasonic Stadium Suita|
J1 Matchweek 2 Recap: Champions stay hot, but challengers emerge
Another week is in the books
Vegalta Sendai 1, Kawasaki Frontale 5
Fresh off of a midweek win that pushed Kawasaki Frontale to two wins in two matches, they went away to Vegalta Sendai and put together one of the best performances by any team in this young season. Yu Kobayashi got on the end of a cross in the 12th minute for the opening goal to start the onslaught then he nearly scored again when he nodded a cross off the post 13 minutes later. Fortunately for Frontale, Daiya Tono got to the rebound and smashed it home for the 2-0 lead. An own goal made it three for the champions, then Kobayashi scored a second before Rikiya Uehara for the home side, but Reo Hatate got that goal back for Frontale in another impressive showing for a team that looks dead set on making it a second consecutive MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE title.
Nagoya Grampus 1, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 0
The formidable Nagoya Grampus defense shone again and they shut down a Consadole attack that poured in five on the opening weekend. Once more, the Grampus back line closed down any half chance that was given and, on the rare occasion that Sapporo did get a look at goal, Mitchell Langerak was there to turn them away. Nagoya didn’t generate a ton of chances of their own so the match could have very easily been a draw, but a gorgeous bit of footwork from Naoki Maeda in the 82nd minute saw him beat his man on the end line and cross Yuki Soma tapped in for the winner to make it a perfect six points from two matches for the title challengers.
Sagan Tosu 2, Urawa Reds 0
Joining Nagoya with six points from two matches, and right on Kawasaki Frontale’s heels, is a rampaging Sagan Tosu. They started brightly and could have gone ahead early, but Shusaku Nishikawa made some fine saves to keep the match level at the break. Nishikawa was again up to the task in the 62nd minute when Fuchi Honda made a terrific, marauding run that saw him shoot well to the near post, only for the Reds backstop to deny him. But Keita Yamashita was able to get to the rebound and knock it in for the opening goal. Down a goal, Urawa Reds came alive and nearly scored, but Sagan Tosu cleared a shot off their line to deny them before Yamashita scored a second goal in the 81st minute to put the match to bed.
Tokushima Vortis 1, Vissel Kobe 1
Tokushima Vortis are still in search of their first win since being promoted to the top flight, but they are still undefeated after another draw. It took until the 75th minute for the deadlock to break as both sides struggled to break down the other’s stingy defense, but Yuki Kakita latched onto a ball in the box, showed patience to make a shooting lane open up, and then slid the ball past the goalkeeper and multiple defenders for the opening goal. With just 15 minutes to hold on for three points, Tokushima Vortis put their men behind the ball and looked sturdy, but a long shot was mishandled by Naoto Kamifukumoto, leaving an easy rebound for Ryuho Kikuchi to knock in and split the points.
F.C.Tokyo 3, Cerezo Osaka 2
It was a rough week for Cerezo Osaka, who lost two leads and the match in midweek action against Kawasaki Frontale and then did the same against F.C.Tokyo, but this time by conceding a 93rd minute winner. Yoshito Okubo put Cerezo in front with a clever run in behind the defense and a diving glancing header to finish. F.C.Tokyo were gifted an equalizer on the other side of halftime when Kim Jin-hyeon misplayed a back pass, scrambled and put it right in front of his goal line for Kyosuke Tagawa to slide and tap in. Cerezo answered with a vicious strike by Riki Harakawa that found the back of the net for the lead, but it was downhill from there for the visitors. An inch perfect free kick by Leandro found the corner of the goal for a 71st minute equalizer, then in stoppage time Masato Morishige was able to finish a whipped in set piece to wrap up three points for F.C.Tokyo and end Cerezo Osaka’s week with four leads and no points to show for it.
Shimizu S-Pulse 2, Avispa Fukuoka 2
Carlinhos started off the action in Shimizu-ku with a pretty curling effort from 20 yards that gave S-Pulse a lead after a dozen minutes. That lead held until just after the hour mark when a cross made it all the way across to the far post for Yuya Yamagishi to settle and smash in for an equalizer. Masaaki Murakami played the role of hero for Fukuoka in the first half, making some fine saves to keep the match close, but that form was missing in the 65th minute when he dropped a looping cross right onto Katsuhiro Nakayama’s foot and the S-Pulse man easily slotted the ball into the open goal. Emil Salomonsson bailed Murakami out in stoppage time, though, hitting a free kick from more than 20 yards that found the back of the net and split the points.
Yokohama FC 1, Oita Trinita 2
A quick start delivered Oita Trinita all three points in Yokohama. It began with low cross that was redirected on goal by Yuto Misao and, while Yuji Rokutan will feel as if he should have kept it out, the ball got by the goalkeeper for the opening goal. Two minutes later, the Yokohama defense misplayed a cross and handed Seigo Kobayashi a golden chance that he did not waste and Oita Trinita had themselves a 2-0 lead before even a dozen minutes had passed. Kohei Tezuka rapped a free kick home to bring Yokohama within a goal, but that was not enough to deny Oita Trinita an away win.
Kashiwa Reysol 2, Shonan Bellmare 1
An early red card doomed Kashiwa Reysol in their season opener, but they kept all 11 men on the pitch in this one and Hiroto Goya delivered them three points. The Kashiwa striker struck first by heading a cross just inside the post for the opener. Shonan Bellmare responded with some heavy pressure that finally paid off just before halftime when Takuya Okamoto found the back of the net, but Goya came to the home side’s rescue. Once again, a cross did the job, but this time he was able to use his foot to connect for his second goal of the game and the first three points to Kashiwa Reysol on the campaign.
Yokohama F·Marinos 3, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3
The final match of the weekend featured, of course, a comeback. Ezequiel drew an early penalty, which Junior Santos converted, to give Sanfrecce the lead, then Shunko Higashi capitalized on a goalkeeper error to stretch the lead to 2-0. Daizen Maeda got Marinos on the board when he found himself in alone on goal and calmly slotted the ball home, but an unfortunate handball saw Sanfrecce get their second spot kick of the game, this time buried by Douglas Vieira. That just set the stage for the Marinos comeback, which began with Ado Onaiwu doing an excellent job to hold off his defender, turn and shoot. The ball found the back of the net, halving the home side’s deficit. Finally, a gorgeous cutback by Kota Watanabe left a defender in his dust and gave space for him to hit a cross, which found a diving Maeda, whose gorgeous header finished the comeback and a thrilling Matchweek 2 in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.
Players to Watch in 2021
The J.LEAGUE has a long and proud history of producing star players, with world famous names like Hidetoshi Nakata, Keisuke Honda, and Takefusa Kubo all making their professional debuts in Japan.
New players emerge into the spotlight to create headlines every year, and before the likes of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, and Daichi Kamada were shining in Europe and for the Japan national team they were giving the fans of Avispa Fukuoka, Cerezo Osaka, and Sagan Tosu plenty to cheer about back home.
The 2021 season won’t be any different in that respect, so let’s take a look at a few of the players expected to make names for themselves in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE this year!
Kaoru Mitoma (Kawasaki Frontale, 23) – Mitoma is the hottest property in the J.LEAGUE at the moment, after enjoying a breakout season for Kawasaki Frontale last year. In his first professional season the Kanagawa native recorded 13 goals and 12 assists as Kawasaki romped to the title, as well as leaving countless opposing defenders with twisted blood as a result of his powerful, mazy dribbles. This season started right where the previous one left off with Mitoma notching two goals in the FUJI XEROX SUPER CUP against Gamba Osaka, and he was again in imperious form in the curtain-raising MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE game on 26 February as the reigning champions downed Yokohama F.Marinos 2-0.
Takuro Kaneko (Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, 23) – Sapporo were the biggest winners on Matchday 1 after cruising past Yokohama FC 5-1, and Kaneko played a vital role in delivering the three points for Mihailo Petrovic’s side. After doubling their lead in just the fourth minute he curled home again to make it 4-1 in first half injury time, more than living up to the hype after taking on the coveted No.9 shirt for this season. The opening day brace means he is already halfway to his solid tally of four goals from 15 starts last year, and if he keeps up this form there will surely be plenty more where they came from.
Ryonosuke Kabayama (Yokohama F.Marinos, 18) – Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the team-sheets were released ahead of the Kawasaki Frontale versus Yokohama F.Marinos clash on 26 February, with Ange Postecoglou thrusting high school graduate Kabayama straight into the Yokohama F・M starting 11 against the reigning champions. Despite only turning 18 last September the youngster looked immediately at home on the J.LEAGUE pitch though, with Postecoglou expressing delight at the way Kabayama seized his chance and bemoaning the fact that some of his more experienced teammates were unable to capitalise upon the scoring chances he created.
Atsuki Ito (Urawa Reds, 22) – Thirty-nine-year-old Yuki Abe may have made all the headlines after marking his return to the starting line-up with a goal in Urawa Reds’ opener against FC Tokyo on 27 February, but Ito was quietly excellent alongside him on his debut in the 1-1 draw. New Urawa manger Ricardo Rodriguez achieved much success at former club Tokushima Vortis by surrounding experienced players with talented youngsters, and Ito showed in his first 90 minutes of J.LEAGUE action that he has more than enough potential to develop into a key player for the Spaniard as he looks to return the Saitama giant to its former glories.
Daichi Hayashi (Sagan Tosu, 23) – Sagan Tosu made global headlines in 2018 when they signed Spain legend Fernando Torres, while the aforementioned Daichi Kamada burst onto the scene the previous year to earn a move to German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt. Hayashi is the latest striker to sparkle in the blue and pink in Kyushu, and after top-scoring for Kim Myung-hwi’s side last year with nine goals – a return rendered even more impressive by the fact that just 10 of his 31 appearances came as a member of the starting line-up – he got up and running immediately in 2021 with the only goal of the game away to Shonan Bellmare.
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec.2, Gamba Osaka vs. Kashima Antlers postponed
J.LEAGUE has announced that the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE match between Gamba Osaka vs. Kashima Antlers, scheduled for Saturday 6 March 2021 at 16h00 JST, has been postponed after cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Gamba Osaka.
Further details of the match postponed will be announced when determined.
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec. 2
|Panasonic Stadium Suita|
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec.11, Nagoya Grampus vs. Gamba Osaka postponed
J.LEAGUE has announced that the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE match between Nagoya Grampus vs. Gamba Osaka, scheduled for Wednesday 3 March 2021 at 19h00 JST, has been postponed after cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Gamba Osaka.
Further details of the match postponed will be announced when determined.
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec. 11
J1 Matchweek 1 Recap: Goals galore and thrilling finishes start off the new season
Finally, the new MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season has begun. And the opening weekend gave us plenty of thrills, from the champions making clear their status as favorites, to phenomenal comebacks, and to a slew of late, game-changing goals. If this is how the rest of the season goes, this is going to be a J.LEAGUE campaign for the ages.
Kawasaki Frontale 2, Yokohama F·Marinos 0
It was only fitting that the defending J1 LEAGUE champions got to kick off the new season and they looked predictably excellent. Kawasaki Frontale came out quickly with a pair of first half goals and cruised to victory over a good Yokohama F·Marinos side that has ambitions of dethroning Frontale. Akihiro Ienaga did the honors for Frontale, scoring in the 21st and 43rd minutes, but it was a true team effort in the dominant opening performance by the champions.
Oita Trinita 1, Tokushima Vortis 1
The newly promoted Tokushima Vortis looked the part of a top division team, despite playing away to a strong Oita Trinita that finished midtable in 2020 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE. Takeru Kishimoto took advantage of an early mistake by the Trinita defense to put Vortis in front before Arata Watanabe equalized in the second half, but Vortis had the bulk of the possession and shots as the newcomers made quite the statement with a very impressive showing.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1, Vegalta Sendai 1
Vegalta Sendai’s campaign could not have started much worse, with Simão Mate Junior seeing a red card in the 27th minute when he had to stop a clear goalscoring opportunity with a tackle from behind. Minutes later, Sanfrecce Hiroshima had the lead, thanks to a deflected shot by Júnior Santos that found the back of the net. But some breathtaking goalkeeping by Jakub Słowik kept it a one-goal game until the 90th minute, when an opportunistic Shuhei Akasaki scored to deliver Vegalta Sendai a shocking point.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 5, Yokohama FC 1
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo are hoping to move from the midtable places into the top four competition and they looked the part of a team capable of that in a dominant opening win. Goals from Yoshiaki Komai and Takuro Kaneko in the second and fourth minutes set the tone for the match, and while Kléber gave Yokohama FC a chance with his 29th minute strike to make it 2-1, Consa were just too good. Kaneko added his second just before the break, then Anderson Lopes and Chanathip Songkrasin tallied in the second half as Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo shone bright.
Urawa Reds 1, FC Tokyo 1
It took just five minutes for Urawa Reds to celebrate for the first time this season as they found the back of the net in the early going, but VAR found the play to be offside and ruled the goal out. With the match back to scoreless, both teams settled into a defensive contest that looked destined for a 0-0 draw until Yuki Abe managed to get to a loose ball in the box and bang it home for a 74th minute goal. That tally gave the match a jolt as FC Tokyo pushed for an equalizer and everything opened up. Urawa Reds nearly added to their lead, but Go Hatano made some fine saves to keep FC Tokyo in it and set up a late Masato Morishige equalizer on a deft header from a free kick.
Kashima Antlers 1, Shimizu S-Pulse 3
The first away win of the 2021 season came courtesy of a late Shimizu S-Pulse rally. Kashima Antlers started brightly, only to be denied by some excellent goalkeeping and last ditch blocks, but they were finally rewarded in the 75th minute when Ryotaro Araki was first to a shot that came back off the crossbar and blasted it home. Desperate for a goal, S-Pulse pressed forward and just three minutes later got what they were looking for when Thiago Santana found the back of the net. Then in the 83rd minute, Yusuke Goto put S-Pulse in front when he headed home a gorgeous cross. Finally, in the 88th minute, a corner kick deflected in off a Kashima Antlers defender and Shimizu S-Pulse had gone from 1-0 down to 3-1 up in a mere 10 minutes for a terrific three points.
Shonan Bellmare 0, Sagan Tosu 1
A well-played and even contest in Hiratsuka could have gone to either team. Shonan looked like they had gone in front early, only to have it ruled out for offside, while Sagan Tosu had several great chances go begging, but the visitors finally got their opportunity with an 80th minute penalty. Daichi Hayashi stepped to the spot and cooly blasted it into the top of the net, providing the only goal in the match as Sagan Tosu walked away with their first three points of the campaign.
Cerezo Osaka 2, Kashiwa Reysol 0
Kashiwa Reysol have the unenviable task of replacing 2020 MVP Michael Olunga and it got tougher for them when Takumi Kamijima was sent off in the 35th minute for pulling down a player to stop a goal scoring opportunity. From that point on, Cerezo dominated. Yoshito Okubo got on the end of a sizzling cross and headed home just before the break—his first goal for Cerezo Osaka since 2006. In the second half, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto added a late goal to send last season’s fourth place finishers to a season-opening victory.
Vissel Kobe 1, Gamba Osaka 0
Vissel Kobe and Gamba Osaka played a back-and-forth match that saw both teams look capable of walking away winners at Noevir Stadium Kobe. Daiya Maekawa was especially responsible for keeping the match scoreless, making some excellent saves to deny Gamba Osaka. The match stayed scoreless until the 79th minute when a gorgeous through ball from Hotaru Yamaguchi played Kyogo Furuhashi in on goal and the forward finished with aplomb, floating the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net for the winning goal.
Avispa Fukuoka 1, Nagoya Grampus 2
The difference in this match was Mateus, as the brilliant Brazilian powered Nagoya Grampus to a season opening victory. He struck first in the fourth minute when he nutmegged one defender, left another sliding past with a tricky cutback, then nutmegged the goalkeeper on the finish for the best goal of the very young season. Mateus found the net again in the 55th minute to give his club a 2-0 lead and while Avispa Fukuoka fought back strongly, even scoring in the 82nd minute, the newly promoted side’s brave performance wasn’t enough to conquer Mateus and Grampus.
J1 Matchweek 1 Viewer’s Guide: Last two champions meet to start the season
Finally, the new MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season is here! A full schedule of 10 matches canvass the weekend as fixtures dot the country from Sapporo in the north all the way to Fukuoka.
Match to watch
The 2021 season kicks off at Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium with a Kanagawa Derby between the last two champions. Hosting the clash is Kawasaki Frontale, MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE title holders and fresh off of arguably the most dominant season in the history of Japanese football. Oh, and if there was any doubt that they were coming back just as strong this year, they captured the FUJI XEROX SUPER CUP last week.
Yokohama F·Marinos took home the title in 2019 and were expected to challenge for top honors again last season, but it was not to be. They scored plenty of goals, but they were a sieve at the back. They conceded nearly two goals per game, a mark that must come down if they want to move back into the top four and challenge for the crown in 2021.
We’re going to get a good look at whether they’ve made the necessary improvements at the back in this one: Kawasaki Frontale set a J1 LEAGUE record for goals in a season last year and will likely be just as potent in this campaign. If the Yokohama F·Marinos defense holds up, it’ll be clear they’re ready to challenge for the throne once again.
Player to watch
While all eyes will be on the Yokohama F·Marinos’ defense, there will also be eyes cast at Teruhito Nakagawa. In 2019, the midfielder was named J1 LEAGUE MVP, a deserved honor after a sensational season that saw Nakagawa lead his team to the title, but his form fell off in 2020. Yokohama F·Marinos will need to be better at the back this season, but they’ll also need to score in bunches. A return to form for Nakagawa would help pile up goals and take the pressure off the defense.
A new season means new teams vaulting up from the MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE.
Tokushima Vortis led the way after capturing the 2020 second-division title. Yuki Kakita was the point of the spear for the club, scoring 17 goals to pace the champions. Each of those goals were crucial, too, because Vortis topped the league on goal difference, so it was Kakita and Co.’s goalscoring exploits that made the difference.
Vortis made it to the top flight of the J.LEAGUE in 2014, but their time in J1 lasted all of one year. They immediately went back down, but their slow rebuild saw them get to fourth place in 2019 before topping J2 last season. Now they’re ready to take on the top flight again!
Joining Vortis in the jump from J2 is Avispa Fukuoka, who were level on points atop the league a year ago. The team’s success was built on the best defense in the division, which is largely intact as they get ready for J1 this year. The key will be whether they can score enough goals, which is why they brought Daiki Watari over from Oita Trinita and signed Bruno Mendes after the Brazilian spent last season at Cerezo Osaka.
Avispa Fukuoka has spent most of the last 20 years bouncing between the top two divisions, achieving promotion four times and relegation just as many. Now they are set on trying to keep their spot in the J1 LEAGUE, while also hoping to capture the first-ever trophy in club history.
Check out all of the great skills and tricks from the 2020 MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE season
Score a goal? Your team is one step closer to winning.
Stop a penalty? A hero saves his team from potential defeat.
Nutmeg someone? That’s just a player making magic happen and basking in the glory of his supreme skill.
He has taken on the man in front of him and completely turned that poor would-be defender inside out, coming out on top of his one-on-one battle with the flair that captures the imagination of everyone who was lucky enough to witness your beauty.
There is something to be said for that type of play. The nutmeg, the flick, the spin or any other small moment of creativity and freedom. While the point of the sport may be a full team effort to score and keep the other team out, that is only a fraction of what makes the sport so beautiful.
Unexpected brilliance is what elevates the game from sport to art. And while we do not ever undervalue the sport and competitiveness of the game, we also value the players and moments who turn sport into something gorgeous that we will never forget.
These are the best flicks and tricks of the 2020 MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE season. This is art.
2021 Season – Protocol Regarding the Cancellation of Official Matches
The J.LEAGUE has announced that the Board of Directors confirmed the protocol regarding the cancellation of official matches in the 2021 season.
■ 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP
• If a match is cancelled, and an alternate day or stadium cannot be secured, the affected match will be deemed to have taken place on the original planned day, and the cancellation will be handled according to the below protocol based on the reason for its cancellation
• If a team does not meet the minimum number of players required for entry (due to COVID-19 infection or other reasons), that team will be deemed responsible for the cancellation
|Reason for Cancellation||Match Result|
|Neither team responsible for cancellation, cancelled due to force majeure (bad weather, etc.)||0-0 tie|
|One team responsible for cancellation||0-3 loss for team responsible for cancellation|
|Both teams responsible for cancellation||0-3 loss for both teams|
■ FUJI XEROX SUPER CUP 2021
• If either team does not fulfill entry conditions by noon three days prior to the matchday (Saturday, February 20, 2021), the highest ranked team in the 2020 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE will replace the team unable to participate
• If either team does not fulfill entry conditions after noon three days prior to the scheduled date, the match will be cancelled
2021 Season – Notice Regarding Matches and Competition Rules
The J.LEAGUE has announced that the Board of Directors confirmed the following protocols for official matches conducted during the 2021 season.
■Competitions in Scope
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP, FUJI XEROX SUPER CUP 2021
Number of Substitutions (Same as 2020 season)
The COVID-19 crisis places an enormous burden on players in the 2021 season, and requires a tight competition schedule. The following rules will therefore be applied to help prevent player injury:
• Up to five substitutes (up to three times of substitution per match, excluding half-time)
The COVID-19 crisis places an enormous burden on players in the 2021 season, and players cannot share water bottles due to the need to prevent infection, making it difficult for them to hydrate during matches. To alleviate this burden, the following rules will be applied:
• In principle, regardless of the WBGT (Wet Bulb Globe Temperature), one cooling break will be implemented in the first and second half of the match
• If both teams agree, it is possible to not take the cooling break (If the WBGT Index standard is not exceeded)
• These rules will be applied until the end of July, 2021. The conditions will be reevaluated for matches held from August onwards
Notification of Change in Kick-off Times for J.LEAGUE Official Matches due to the Extension of the Declaration of the State of Emergency
The declaration of emergency covering 10 prefectures was extended to March 7, which requires entertainment such as football matches to conclude business by 20h00. Match kick-off times will therefore be adjusted in the affected areas for the duration of the declaration of emergency as following.
If the declaration of emergency is ended ahead of schedule, kick-off times may be re-adjusted to their original times.
■2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE
|19:00||18:00||Kawasaki vs. Yokohama F･M||Todoroki||DAZN|
|19:00||18:00||Kawasaki vs. C-Osaka||Todoroki||DAZN|
|19:30||18:00||Nagoya vs. G-Osaka||Toyota.S||DAZN|
■2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP Group Stage
|19:00||18:00||Shonan vs. Urawa||LemonS
|19:00||18:00||FC-Tokyo vs. Tokushima||Ajinomoto||Fuji Television
|19:00||18:00||Kashiwa vs. Yokohama FC||SANKYO Fkashiwa||SKY PerfecTV!|
|19:00||18:00||Yokohama F･M vs. Sendai||NHK SPRING .F||SKY PerfecTV!|
The Year in Review: A 2020 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Season Recap!
The 2020 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season had it all. From a historically dominant champion, to an individual goal-scoring season for the ages, to a furious race to the AFC Champions League places, to the brilliant goals and late-match heroics, this season was unlike any other.
And you can relive it all now, week-by-week, as Part One of our Season Recap details all the drama and legendary performances that won’t soon be forgotten.
Kawasaki Frontale’s 83 points and 88 goals are new J.LEAGUE records.
Michael Olunga’s 28 goals are the most anyone has scored in the league since 2005.
Nagoya Grampus and Cerezo Osaka both squeaked into the AFC Champions League, where they’ll go for continental glory.
And across it all, what will the 2020 season be most remembered for? It has to be goals, with the entire league banging them in left and right for the highest-scoring season the J.LEAGUE has seen since 2013.
What a season. And don’t forget to tune in soon for Part Two, coming soon to the Official J.LEAGUE International YouTube Channel!
Quite simply, there has never been another player like Kengo Nakamura.
The legend began back in 2003, when Kengo was just 22 years old. At the time, who could have predicted he would play all the way through 2020, setting a J.LEAGUE record with eight league Best XI honors, an MVP award and establishing himself as one of the giants of not just the league, but of the sport.
Maybe most incredibly, Kengo did this entirely as a Kawasaki Frontale player. The ultimate one-club man, Kengo signed with a second division Kawasaki Frontale and helped turn them into the powerhouse they are today.
It took just two seasons for Kengo to help push the team to promotion. The jump to the top flight didn’t slow down the emergence of Kengo as one of the best players in the country, and he was soon a regular for the National Team, eventually accumulating over 60 caps and playing in the 2010 World Cup. All of this came while transforming Kawasaki Frontale into not just a J1 club, but a title contender.
It wasn’t all easy for Kengo and Kawasaki Frontale, though. Kengo was racking up J.LEAGUE Best XI honors year after year, and the club were among the best in the league within just a couple seasons of being promoted to the top division, but that wasn’t enough to win a top trophy. All of Kengo’s silverware was for personal achievements, not team, because as good as Kawasaki Frontale were, they couldn’t get over the hump and actually be crowned champs. That was especially true in 2016 when Kengo was named J.LEAGUE MVP, the oldest player to ever capture the award, but Kawasaki Frontale still fell short and Kengo still did not have a top flight club title to his name.
Then, finally, at the age of 37, Kawasaki Frontale won the 2017 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE. Kengo was a champion. And the following year they won it again. In 2019, it was the J.LEAGUE Cup that Kengo and Kawasaki Frontale added before the legend went out in style, with the J.LEAGUE and Emperor’s Cup double in 2020.
There was no more fitting end to the legend’s career than a run of five trophies in four years, finally giving him the club accolades to match his individual honors. And, of course, it all came at Kawasaki Frontale. The only club he’s ever known, where he left a legacy that will never be forgotten.
Now, Kengo steps away, and all we can say is thank you. You were a marvel.
2021 J.LEAGUE Schedule
The following information for the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE (J1, J2, J3) and 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP have been announced.
|Levain CUP||Group Stage||・Dates||・Kick-off time|
|Prime Stage||・Dates (except for final)|
Road to the title: How Kawasaki Frontale conquered the J.LEAGUE in 2020
Never before has the J.LEAGUE seen a team as dominant as Kawasaki Frontale in 2020. Their 83 points were the most-ever in the history of the league, so was the 18-point gap they put between them and the next-best team, and their 88 goals were the most any team has ever scored.
Kawasaki Frontale’s spectacular season earned a slew of their players individual awards, too.
Jung Sung-ryong, Miki Yamane, Jesiel, Shogo Taniguchi, Kyohei Noborizato, Akihiro Ienaga, Ao Tanaka, Hidemasa Morita and Kaoru Mitoma were all named to the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Best XI, giving Kawasaki Frontale nine of the 11 spots on the team.
Kawasaki Frontale’s success is also Toru Oniki’s. The manager has been at the club since 2000, first as a player, then as coach, and now with three J.LEAGUE titles, a J.LEAGUE Cup and Japanese Super Cup to his name in his four years as the top boss, he is truly a legend.
???????? ???????????? ???????? ???????????????? ???????? ???????????? ????????— J.LEAGUE Official EN (@J_League_En) January 19, 2021
Kawasaki Frontale have been a joy to watch in J.LEAGUE under Toru Oniki!
© J.LEAGUE - All Rights Reserved pic.twitter.com/be3rTE6jrw
With three MEIJI YASUDA J1 League titles (2017, 2018, and 2020), a J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP (2019), a FUJI XEROX Super Cup (2019), and an Emperor’s Cup (2020) to his name, Oniki has ushered in an era of dominance at Frontale, with this most recent 2020 team one for the ages.
J.LEAGUE transfer news: Who’s on the move as teams gear up for the new season
With the 2020 J.LEAGUE season in the books, teams have turned their attention to the upcoming campaign and with the competition tougher than ever, they know they have to upgrade their squads to keep up.
Shimizu S-Pulse made two big moves, first bringing Shūichi Gonda in on loan from Portimonense. The move lands one of the national team’s top goalkeepers back in the J.LEAGUE, where he formerly starred for FC Tokyo and Sagan Tosu. S-Pulse also nabbed Thiago, a Brazilian who scored 7 goals in 9 matches to start off the Portuguese Liga Nos season before moving to S-Pulse this month. A lower profile move that may pay off big time by S-Pulse was picking up Akira Silvano Disaro, who finished second on the MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE scoring chart last season.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo also upgraded their front line, acquiring Gabriel Okechukwu. The 25-year-old forward has 5 caps for Nigeria to his name. It wasn’t all good news for the club, though, who lost a key member of their defense in Ryosuke Shindo to Cerezo Osaka.
Cerezo Osaka didn’t just pick up Shindo to sort out their defense, though. They also ratcheted up things up front by bringing in Adam Taggart from the Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The 27-year-old played for Australia at the 2014 World Cup and has Golden Boot awards from the A-League and K-League to his name.
In the league-wide race to level up the attacks, Kashima Antlers signed Arthur Caíke. The winger has won six trophies in Brazil and could be the key piece to move Kashima from 5th place into the AFC Champions League places.
Kawasaki Frontale needed to strengthen their midfield, with Hidemasa Morita leaving for Santa Clara in Portugal, and they were able to do that and weaken a rival by signing João Schmidt away from Nagoya Grampus.
Meanwhile, Avispa Fukoka secured a key part of their defense, completing a permanent transfer for Emil Salomonsson, who spent last season on loan at the club from Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
The biggest departure thus far is unquestionably 2020 J.LEAGUE MVP Michael Olunga, who left Kashiwa Reysol for Al-Duhail SC in Qatar. Mitsuki Saito is also on the way out, with the precocious attacker joining Rubin Kazan in Russia on loan from Shonan Bellmare.
With the January transfer window not even halfway through, this is only just the beginning. There are surely more moves to come as clubs jockey to set themselves up for J.LEAGUE glory in 2021.
Return of the King: 53-year-old Kazuyoshi Miura Re-signs with Yokohama FC!
Yokohama FC have renewed the contract of 53-year-old forward Kazuyoshi Miura for the 2021 J.LEAGUE season.
At the symbolic time of 11:11 on the 11th of January, the legendary No. 11 of Japanese football was announced as a member of next season’s squad, thus solidifying his 36th professional campaign.
Known around the world as “King Kazu,” Miura was the inaugural J.LEAGUE MVP, holds the record as the oldest player in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, and now has senior appearances in the sport across five different decades.
For information on the official announcement, please visit Yokohama FC’s website: https://yokohamafc.com/2021/01/11/1111miura/
Farewell, Michael Olunga: The Engineer became a legend at Kashiwa Reysol as the world watched on
Michael Olunga’s time at Kashiwa Reysol was a dream and his 2020 season was unlike any other. He led the J.LEAGUE in goals, nearly lapping the field and capturing a well-deserved MVP award.
Olunga’s dominance at the front of the Kashiwa Reysol attack made him a hero in Japan, but The Engineer’s spectacular play also resonated all over the globe, and especially in his home country of Kenya.
Olunga’s time at Kashiwa Reysol has come to an end, with the Kenyan leaving for Al-Duhail SC after the 2020 season, but he will never be forgotten in the J.LEAGUE.
From The Engineer’s 27-goal onslaught in the 2019 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE to lead the Kashiwa Reysol’s title-winning season and promotion, to the 28 times he found the goal in 2020 in one of the most remarkable campaigns the top flight has ever seen, Olunga wrote himself into the book of J.LEAGUE legends.
???????????????? Take a look at the immense support for homegrown hero @OgadaOlunga and @REYSOL_Official in screenings of the 2020 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP Final across Kenya. Whether in Luckysummer, Babadogo Grounds, or Kariadudu, the love was evident! ????????— J.LEAGUE Official EN (@J_League_En) January 9, 2021
© J.LEAGUE - All Rights Reserved pic.twitter.com/I8OKYIWFGt
2021 MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE Opening match fixtures
J.LEAGUE has announced the opening match fixtures for the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE have confirmed as below. The kick-off time and broadcasting details will be announced on 22nd January.
【2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE】
■Opening match（1st Sec.）
|Friday 26 February||Kawasaki Frontale||vs||Yokohama F･Marinos||Todoroki|
|Saturday 27 February||Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo||vs||Yokohama FC||Sapporo.D|
|Kashima Antlers||vs||Shimizu S-Pulse||Kashima|
|Shonan Bellmare||vs||Sagan Tosu||LemonSHiratsuka|
|Cerezo Osaka||vs||Kashiwa Reysol||YANMAR STADIUM|
|Vissel Kobe||vs||Gamba Osaka||NOEVIR.S|
|Sanfrecce Hiroshima||vs||Vegalta Sendai||EDION Stadium.H|
|Oita Trinita||vs||Tokushima Vortis||SHOWA DENKO.D|
|Sunday 28 February||Avispa Fukuoka||vs||Nagoya Grampus||BEST-STA|
|Wednesday 3 March||Nagoya Grampus||vs||Gamba Osaka||Toyota.S|
|Saturday 6 March||Vegalta Sendai||vs||Kawasaki Frontale||Yurtec.S|
|Kashiwa Reysol||vs||Shonan Bellmare||SANKYO FKashiwa|
|Yokohama FC||vs||Oita Trinita||NHK SPRING .F|
|Shimizu S-Pulse||vs||Avispa Fukuoka||IAI.S|
|Gamba Osaka||vs||Kashima Antlers||Pana.S|
|Tokushima Vortis||vs||Vissel Kobe||POCARI SWEAT.S|
|Sagan Tosu||vs||Urawa Reds||EKI.S|
|Sunday 7 March||Yokohama F･Marinos||vs||Sanfrecce Hiroshima||Nissan.S|
※The 11th Sec. will be held in March due to the adjustment to the AFC Champions League 2021 schedule.
【2021 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE】
|Saturday 27 February||Giravanz Kitakyushu||vs||Albirex Niigata||MIKUNI.S|
|V･Varen Nagasaki||vs||Zweigen Kanazawa||trasta|
|Sunday 28 February||Mito Hollyhock||vs||Omiya Ardija||K's denki.S|
|Tochigi SC||vs||Fagiano Okayama||kanseki.S|
|Thespakusatsu Gunma||vs||Blaublitz Akita||Shoda.S|
|JEF United Chiba||vs||Ventforet Kofu||Fukuda.A|
|Tokyo Verdy||vs||Ehime FC||Ajinomoto|
|FC Machida Zelvia||vs||Montedio Yamagata||Machida GION S.|
|S.C. Sagamihara||vs||Kyoto Sanga F.C.||GION STADIUM|
|Renofa Yamaguchi FC||vs||Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.||Me-Life Stadium|
|FC Ryukyu||vs||Jubilo Iwata||Tapic Stadium|
|Saturday 6 March||Omiya Ardija||vs||Ventforet Kofu||NACK5.S|
|Albirex Niigata||vs||V･Varen Nagasaki||DENKA BIG SWAN|
|Jubilo Iwata||vs||FC Machida Zelvia||Yamaha|
|Sunday 7 March||Kyoto Sanga F.C.||vs||Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.||SANGA S|
|Fagiano Okayama||vs||Zweigen Kanazawa||CITY LIGHT S.|
|Ehime FC||vs||JEF United Chiba||Ningineer.S|
|Sunday 14 March||Ventforet Kofu||vs||Tochigi SC||Yamanashibank.S|
|Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.||vs||Montedio Yamagata||SUNAL|
|Zweigen Kanazawa||vs||Giravanz Kitakyushu||Ishikawaseibu.S|
|Sunday 21 March||Montedio Yamagata||vs||Tochigi SC||ND.S|
|Sunday 28 March||Blaublitz Akita||vs||Kyoto Sanga F.C.||SOYU.S|
【2021 MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE】
|Sunday 14 March||Fukushima United FC||vs||Fujieda MYFC||TOHO S.|
|Y.S.C.C. Yokohama||vs||Kataller Toyama||NHK SPRING .F|
|FC Gifu||vs||Vanraure Hachinohe||Nagaragawa|
|Kamatamare Sanuki||vs||AC Nagano Parceiro||Pikara Stadium|
|FC Imabari||vs||Roasso Kumamoto||YUMESTA|
|Tegevajaro Miyazaki||vs||Iwate Grulla Morioka||UniSta|
|Kagoshima United FC||vs||Gainare Tottori||Shiranami Sta|
|Saturday 20 March||Azul Claro Numazu||vs||FC Imabari||Ashitaka|
|Roasso Kumamoto||vs||Kagoshima United FC||EGAO K Stadium|
|Sunday 21 March||AC Nagano Parceiro||vs||Tegevajaro Miyazaki||Nagano U|
|Kataller Toyama||vs||Vanraure Hachinohe||Toyama|
|Fujieda MYFC||vs||FC Gifu||Fujieda.S|
|Gainare Tottori||vs||Iwate Grulla Morioka||Ａｘｉｓ|
|Sunday 28 March||Vanraure Hachinohe||vs||Azul Claro Numazu||Prifoods.S|
|Iwate Grulla Morioka||vs||AC Nagano Parceiro||IWAGIN.S|