The best thing on display in a Shimizu S-Pulse shirt yesterday at pretty Nihondaira Stadium was the pre-match entertainment dancers.
Listen to the sounds of the Shimizu fans
Shimizu S-Pulse v Nagoya Grampus pre-match entertainment
On the pitch, Shimizu were poor again and lost 2-0 to an improving Nagoya Grampus. The loss of ace marksman Korean Cho Jae-jin seems to be key to the Shizuoka Prefecture club’s poor form this season.
The tall Cho Jae-jin, who has returned to the Qiu Qiu K.League with Jeonbuk Motors after a move to the English Premier League fell through, has been replaced with a 1.65 meter Brazilian, Marcos Aurelio, plucked from his country’s third division in a piece of ill-advised transfer activity by a literally short-sighted board.
Shimizu S-Pulse fans
Over 14,000 supportive fans saw the match but crowds are slipping as the team continues to slide in to the bottom three of the J-League.
Adios Getafe, only big guns remain
After all, the UEFA Cup semifinal setup will be worthy of the illustrious tradition of this competition. After the elimination of Getafe, whose best-ever Spanish league standing was last year’s nineth, only the teams worthy of European glory have remained.
The big hit of the current edition are the Russian champions Zenit, who kicked out Villarreal, Marseille and Bayer Leverkusen in the past three rounds. Led by the respectable Dutch coach in Dirk Advocaaat and a handful of Russian internationals, Zenit reached their first European semifinals, and it is possible that they have not said their last word although their next opposition are Bayern. The ease with which they demolished Leverkusen
Bayern, by far the winningest team of the last four, had not seen a semifinal action since 2001, when they eliminated Real Madrid on the way to their fourth Champions League title. Despite a certain anonimity on the continental field after that achievement, Bayern are still one of the world soccer giants with shelves packed with silverware: four Champions Leagues, Cup Winners’ Cup. UEFA Cup, Supercup and two Intercontinental Cups. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld says he sees Bayern in
the finals, but after toiling so much against a modest side like Getafe, the Bavarians had better approach their next obstacle with more humility.
Fiorentina and Rangers own just one European trophy, a Cup Winners’ Cup each. The Italians won the first edition of the competition in 1961, beating who else but Rangers by 2-0 and 2-1. They were on the losing side in the following year’s finals against Atlético Madrid and in 1990 they lost a UEFA Cup finals against Juventus. Their last appearance in the semifinal stage came eleven years ago when Ronaldo’s and Figo’s Barcelone proved too powerful for the Violets.
Rangers collected their only continental honour in 1972, after losing two previous finals in 1961 and 1967. In the scandalous final held in Barcelona thousands of Rangers’ fans fought with the police, which cost the club one year suspension. After that tarnished triumph, the Blues came close to a final game only once, when they finished second in the semifinal group of the 1992/93 Champions League, behind eventual winners Marseille. Since this year’s finals is to be played in Glasgow, Rangers believe the trophy is destined to end up in their hands, but before that happens Fiorentina’s in-form man, Adrian Mutu, will have to give his approval.