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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Kawasaki Frontale Win the Fujifilm Super Cup

J.League rivals Frontale and Vissel staged an enticing duel in the Fujifilm Super Cup. Newcomer Sai van Wermeskerken lifted Frontale with a 48th-minute goal.

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Fujifilm Super Cup
Kawasaki Frontale players celebrate their victory over Vissel Kobe in the 2024 Fujifilm Super Cup at Tokyo's National Stadium on February 17. (KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Kawasaki Frontale Win the Fujifilm Super Cup

In an entertaining, hard-fought Fujifilm Super Cup, Kawasaki Frontale triumphed 1-0 over Vissel Kobe on Saturday afternoon, February 17.

Before an announced crowd of 52,142 at Tokyo's National Stadium, Frontale took the lead in the 48th minute on newcomer Sai van Wermeskerken's goal. The 29-year-old defender was in the right place at the right time, rushing toward the goal after a free kick.

Vissel's Daiya Maekawa, goalkeeper for the reigning J.League champions, was not in a position to grab the ball — he knocked it aside, though. Vissel defender Hotaru Yamaguchi then attempted to clear the ball and move it beyond any goal-striking opportunity for Frontale.

But Yamaguchi's clearance attempt went right to van Wermeskerken, who quickly shot the ball toward the left corner of the net.

Van Wermeskerken joined Frontale in January 2024. From 2015 until his move to Kawasaki, he plied his craft for several teams in the Netherlands.

Fujifilm Super Cup
Frontale's Sai van Wermeskerken celebrates after scoring in the 48th minute. (KYODO)

Reaction from the Lone Scorer in the Fujifilm Super Cup

"I'm happy to have made my debut appearance [in Japan] in an important match like this," van Wermeskerken was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "The ball dropped where I hoped it would and I'm really happy to have scored."

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Van Wermeskerken, whose father is Dutch and mother is Japanese, elaborated on his Frontale debut in a short interview posted on the J.League's English-language X (formerly Twitter) account.

Asked about his winning goal, he said, "Just to be honest, it's too perfect. I was thinking if I could score and [win] the title before the game. But I never expected that it would be true, you know."

Fujifilm Super Cup
Vissel Kobe's Yuya Osako (left) in action in the first half. (©SANKEI)

Fujifilm Super Cup
Frontale's Shin Yamada controls the ball as Vissel's Jean Patric looks on in the first half. (KYODO)

In a match featuring 14 shots for Vissel and 12 for Frontale, spirited competition for possession provided one of the top highlights.

"It was a tough game because they used a lot of long balls, so we had to win the duels and be compact," van Wermeskerken said on the J.League video on X. "But everybody on the defensive line and the midfield did hard work, so I appreciate everybody's performance as well."

Frontale finished eighth among 18 J.League teams in 2023.

In 2024, 20 teams will compete in J1. The second division, aka J2, will carry 20 teams, a reduction of two teams from the previous year.

Format of the Fujifilm Super Cup

The traditional curtain raiser for the J.League season is played between the reigning champion and the most recent winner Emperor's Cup. Also known as the Japanese Super Cup, the event has been held annually since 1994.

The Kashima Antlers have won the Super Cup the most times (six). 

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On Saturday, Kawasaki claimed its third Super Cup title. Previous victories came in 2019 and 2021. And now the J.League season is up next, with the first matches to be played on Friday, February 23.

Continue reading the full story, which includes news items on swimming, boxing, baseball and more, on SportsLook.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven

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