The 8.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami which tore through north-eastern Japan have forced the postponement of all J. League games this weekend.
The J. League announced this morning that no games would take place in J1 or J2 over the weekend, with early reports suggesting some grounds may have suffered structural damage.
Vegalta Sendai were due to host defending champions Nagoya Grampus at Yurtec Sendai Stadium on Saturday, but with the stadium just over 10 kilometres from the coastline, it’s unclear whether the 20,000-capacity venue has suffered damage.
Unverified reports suggest Kashima Togel Online Stadium has also been rattled by the quake, while JEF United’s Fukuda Denshi Arena is not far from an oil factory currently ablaze in the aftermath of the devastating quake.
It’s not known when football will resume following the deadly temblor, which was one of the strongest earthquakes in recorded history.
Beating the Barça blues
In the aftermath of Arsenal’s European death in the Camp Nou, the football world is wondering just who if anyone can beat the behemoth of Barcelona to the biggest prize.
The Gunners could yet turn out to be the English champions in 2011 but will not be making the trip to Wembley in May for the Champions League final. A 4-3 aggregate loss to the blaugrana sounds like no disgrace but the vital statistics paint a devastating picture – 738 completed passes from Barcelona to 199 from Arsenal, 19 shots to none.
Forget the harsh second yellow card for Robin Van Persie; the Gunners were outgunned and imprisoned out of possession for the best part of the match. The Londoners failed to fire a single shot on their opponents’ goal and only registered two touches inside the Barça box throughout the course of the contest. Robbed? Hardly when even their equalizer was an own goal scored by Sergio Busquets. How good were Barcelona? In the following night’s clash between Tottenham and Milan, no slouches themselves, neither side looked like they could hold a candle to the Catalans.
Domestically, Arsene Wenger’s team are accustomed to guarding the ball from their opponents and circulating it with a sleek élan. At home against Barça, they were forced to play like an away team and in the Camp Nou cauldron hardly had a sniff of what could be called possession, struggling to string sequential passes together in the face of some truly fierce pressing high up the field. The sad irony was that Arsenal play the closest thing there is in England to Barcelona’s style yet clearly have an awful lot of ground to make up.
Wenger and Gunners diehards bemoaned the red card as their fall guy and have every right to release their frustration on something. The Frenchman has sweat blood and tears for years forging an Empire at the Emirates only to be cruelly reminded Rome was not built in a day.
The hosts’ attacking wizardry was as expected, the ferocious closing-down a shock to the English system. The pressing game properly began with Liverpool in the late 1970s before being honed by Milan in the early 1990s. Barça’s pack of hounds haring after the ball were matched by their silky attackers ganging up when bearing down on goal. Playing so close allowed them to unfurl the tiki-taka tactics which let a blue and burgundy-inspired Spain bag both the World Cup and European Championship over the past three years.
Lionel Messi’s opener came with some quick feet and an exquisite split-second chip over the advancing goalkeeper, while Xavi’s goal was a textbook example of how to zig-zag right through the middle of a tight backline. Their crack troops are primed for short sprints and talented enough to dart through tight angles. When the gaps appear, Barça’s artisans have the skill to craft something magical. By contrast, when Arsenal’s golden chance arrived late in the day, the sturdy yet gangling Nicklas Bendtner failed to control Jack Wilshere’s pass properly and the chance was lost.
The actual gap between the blaugrana and the rest of Europe is worrying. Last week I watched Barcelona defeat Valencia 1-0 away with another goal from Messi. The hosts were third in La Liga behind the big two but looked a good division below in quality as their visitors outclassed them utterly on their own patch. Barça could have scored a hatful in the first half at La Mestalla, torturing their hosts with the same harrying tactics they used to destroy Arsenal. Surely no team in the world is using space as ruthlessly as Barcelona at the moment.