Cerezo Osaka were defeated by J2 side Ventforet Kofu after playing 90 minutes plus 30 extra minutes in the Emperor’s Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday. Yutaka Soneda’s last minute goal eliminated the 2017 champions from the competition.
Team manager Yoon Jong-hwan has basically chosen to form two squads within the team - one for league and another for cup games - and rotate the squad, the same tactics as he employed in the last season. As to Wednesday’s game, he did the same thing, making several changes from the last game’s staring lineup.
Some may want to blame this tactics (and it may perhaps be legit), but considering the team have 12 games to play in nearly a month, there were actually few other options. What is worse, it has been extremely and exceptionally hot in Japan this summer. For example, in Sakai City, one of Cerezo Osaka’s hometowns, the temperature exceeded 39 degrees on Wednesday, the hottest ever since record keeping began.
And what is even worse, Cerezo currently lack a few important players due to injury, namely Yoichiro Kakitani and Kazuya Yamamura. Yang Dong-hyun has also been reportedly unavailable for the same reason. That’s why Yoon has nothing but to rely on Hirofumi Yamauchi, a 23-year-old player who is still in the second professional season and has played just 16 games and scored 3 goals and only in the J3 League.
But things may get better from now on. It is not a happy thing but Cerezo now can focus on only two competitions. After tomorrow’s home game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, they can take a breath as there is not a mid-week match next week. Injured players may be coming back soon. At least, Yang is seemingly back in team training although there is no official announcement. Cerezo have not performed very well after the World Cup break but they are still in the 5th place in the league table, only 4 points away from the ACL zone. It is too early to get depressed and be pessimistic.