Back to Tokyo for the semi finals of the competition and I noted that Sepp Blatter has already questioned the participation of the Oceania tournament winner. Not only is this the smallest of the federations it also recently lost Australia to the Asian tournament, as they wished the national team to have more competition and also avoid their inevitable World Cup play off against South American opponents.

Reds fans

Making my way from the subway stadium to the first game it was noticeable that a large number of locals were sporting the yellow and blue of Boca. I was handed a flyer for La Bombonera, a Japanese bar dedicated to the team, there were a number of people handing them, obviously to boost business for what should be their busiest night ever.

The standard of football was raised with the introduction of the first South American champions not to come from Brazil. Etoile showed their intentions with a shot at goal from the kick off. However Boca's slick passing was the key to their win. With 37 minutes gone Palermo put Palacio away down the left wing who played an intricate ball into the feet of Nery Cardozo who gleefully hammered the ball into the roof of the net. Etoile shook off the defensive qualities that saw them through their qualifying match and showed that they could play.

The Argentinian side have been quoted as saying that they have to win this tournament no matter what, and Fabian Vargas's second yellow proved they are not going to let anyone get in the way. Despite this setback with 25 minutes left Boca reverted to 4-3-2, proving that attack is the best form of defence. They matched their opponents with chances at both ends, cruelly Etoile substitute Gilson Silva hit the post in the last minute.

So where better to go having just seen Boca clinch their place in the final than La Bombonera. One useful skill in Japan is orienteering! Directions are given by small diagrams, they may have street names on but I wouldn't know.
So having negotiated my way I arrived at a small bar in the back streets of the Yoyogi area. The bar was indeed box shaped and decked out with Boca souvenirs and old Boca matches broadcast in the background.

I got talking to one local who had his Boca shirt on and had also gone to the game. During our conversation he pointed to a picture which showed mascots from the J League teams. I quickly reeled of two of the teams. With this I became an instant celebrity. I tried to explain the race that our mascots back in England, but I think this would seem rather tame to them.
(Have you seen the clips from the Japanese show where they play football
with binoculars on or even the rugby game in fancy dress suits!).
Free drinks were the order of the night, Quilmes of course.

Next day and it was down the road to Yokohama. Another closely contested game with an excellent atmosphere. The Urawa fans were their usual self. Chanting and pogoing (well almost all of them) to their songs. Urawa conceded territorial advantage but defended well. When they broke they used the width of the whole pitch and became more confident as the game wore on.
Kaka was a constant menace but with no end product he switched flanks during the first half looking for a way past a resolute Urawa defence.

The chants of the Urawa fans grew louder during the second half as they sensed that their team might get a result. Especially when Washington curled a shot into the corner only for Dida to pluck it out of the air just when it looked like going in. Then the inevitable, Kaka broke down the left and got to the byline and laid the ball into the path of Seedorf who stroked the ball into an empty net.

Listen to an Urawa Reds chant

Mysteriously Tanaka who didn't get to Kaka in time to stop the ball being pulled back signalled for his own substitution. At first he held his hamstring and then moments later collapsed as though he had been shot.

The Urawa fans gave their all, but their team couldn't do quite enough to get back in the game. The referee blew the final whistle and the chanting stopped, just as suddenly as it had begun in Nagoya. Despite that as I left the stadium I could still hear the chanting in my head. It went (in my best Japanese) -

Allez, allez, allez, allez,
Allez, allez, allez,
Allez, allez, allez,
(repeat until coming to a sudden stop)

© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile

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