The last league game before it has been played. The last of the tickets have been sold - the game is totally sold out. The bullet trains to Tokyo the morning of the game are all either full or very close to it. All that remains is for Shimizu S-Pulse to march out side by side with Oita Trinita on Saturday in 2008's Nabisco Cup Final!
The route to the final, which started back in March, has been long and filled with tension, derbies and goals. In summary, here is S-Pulse's road to the Kokuritsu, with UK Ultras article linked where available.
March 20th S-Pulse 3-1 FC Tokyo
March 23rd Tokyo Verdy 0-0 S-Pulse
April 16th S-Pulse 5-0 Tokyo Verdy
May 25th S-Pulse 4-2 Jubilo Iwata
May 31st FC Tokyo 1-1 S-Pulse
June 8th Jubilo Iwata 2-0 S-Pulse
July 2nd Kashima Antlers 0-0 S-Pulse
August 6th S-Pulse 2-1 Kashima Antlers
September 3rd S-Pulse 1-1 Gamba Osaka
September 7th Gamba Osaka 2-3 S-Pulse
As you may expect, I'm not physically capable of anything other than a massively biased preview and that's exactly what you're going to get! Luckily when it comes to this blog, I am my own boss, so I'm going to say it loud, and I'm going to say it proud:
- S-Pulse can play a full strength team of the type which recently disposed of titles chasers FC Tokyo (5-1 away), Kawasaki (2-0) and Gamba (3-1).
- Oita are missing first choice keeper through injury.
- Oita have scored less goals than Sapporo who were relegated to J2, what? five games ago?
- S-Pulse have players brimming with confidence and Edamura is gunning for competition top scorer
- Oita have lost three from their last four, scoring only once. That goal scorer is suspended.
- Kenta Hasegawa experienced the last time we won the Nabisco in 96 as a player, and the last time we lost a cup final as manager. He is NOT about to let that happen again!
- The hundreds who are marking their spots in the queue days before the game are the same - we are simply aching for victory.
At our last meeting, we blew a two goal lead at their place to draw 2-2. That was back in early August. I believe that was two different sides playing each other. Since then we've well and truly found our form and feet, while Oita have been severely faltering. Indeed, Oita have conceded as many goals in their last five games since keeper Nishikawa was injured as they had in their previous SIXTEEN.
All I ask now is this: To S-Pulse's team of young, hungry heroes, you get out there and you bring that trophy back to Shimizu!! Then jump in your team bus and join us in our party by the sea! The whole of Shizuoka is willing it!