In a day that saw a number of teams clinch qualification to the 2020 J.League Cup knockout stage, the most notable event of the competition’s last group stage matches was instead the decision made by Sagan Tosu to shut down their operations until August 25th. The decision was made following news that a number of people linked to the Kyushu-based club were tested positive for COVID-19.
Following the decision to postpone the J.League Cup match between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Tosu due to the latter’s situation, Tosu president Minoru Takehara confirmed on a late Wednesday night press conference that the Saga Prefecture-based club shall cease activities until August 25th following a staggering 10 positive cases of COVID-19 within the club. The positive cases include head coach Kim Myung-hwi, who was the first Tosu personnel diagnosed with COVID-19, an unnamed player, and an unnamed staff member. Three staff members were in close contact with Myung-hwi in the days leading up to his diagnosis, the trio were among the 89 Tosu players and staff members who underwent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing on Tuesday. The three staffers’ test results came out negative, thankfully.
And while the unnamed player and staff member were tested positive and had their results announced during an earlier press conference on Wednesday regarding the postponement of the Sanfrecce-Tosu clash, there were 7 suspected cases that needed to be examined further. Takehara confirmed that those 7 suspected cases were positives on his late night press conference. The Saga Prefecture government even deemed the 10 cases within Tosu as a cluser – the first such known case in the J.League and the second such known case in Japan after a Shimane Prefecture-based high school football team that saw 88 of their members being infected.
With Tosu being shuttered off until August 25th, their next three matches – two home games against Gamba Osaka and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo on August 15th and 23rd respectively as well as an away game against Vegalta Sendai on August 19th – were postponed indefinitely.
The news of the COVID-19 cluster within Tosu overshadowed Wednesday’s J.League Cup action, that saw teams sealing spots in the competition’s knockout stage.
Both Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus qualify from Group A after an exciting 2-2 draw that saw the unbeaten Kawasaki claw back a point after being two goals down early in the first half. Kawasaki were through as Group A winners, while Nagoya’s unbeaten performance in their Group A games saw them qualify as best runners-up. The group’s other match was equally as exciting as Kashima Antlers mounted a spirited comeback against hosts Shimizu S-Pulse, going down 2-1 late into the game before scoring two late goals to win 3-2.
Group B saw Cerezo Osaka completing a clean sweep of their games after beating Vegalta 3-0 in Sendai, which ensured that the men in pink have won all 3 of their games. The game between Matsumoto Yamaga and Urawa Red Diamonds was not played with all three points being awarded to Urawa, as Matsumoto had withdrawn themselves from the J.League Cup due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent effects on Japanese football causing fixture congestions for the recently relegated team from Nagano Prefecture. Matsumoto were in action on Wednesday though, going down 3-0 at JEF United Chiba in the 2020 J.League 2’s Matchweek 11.
Thai international Kawin Thamsatchanan once again started between the sticks for Consadole as his side played out a 1-1 draw with Yokohama FC, who started 53-year old legendary striker Kazuyoshi Miura for the second consecutive time in the J.League Cup. The draw at the Sapporo Dome ensured Consadole’s qualification from Group C, while at the same time eliminating Yokohama FC out of the competition. The result also ensured that neither Sanfrecce or Tosu will qualify regardless of the result of their postponed match.
Last but not least, Kashiwa Reysol clinched qualification from Group D after a comprehensive 3-1 beatdown of Oita Trinita at the Hitachi Stadium Kashiwa, which rendered Gamba’s 2-1 win away at Shonan Bellmare as mere formality for the two sides.
Kawasaki, Nagoya, Cerezo, Consadole, and Kashiwa will join Yokohama F. Marinos, Vissel Kobe, and FC Tokyo in this season’s J.League Cup knockout stage, which will be drawn on Thursday. The knockout stage will commence on September 2nd with a series of single-legged quarterfinal ties, before the semifinal matches were to be played on October 7th, both single-legged ties as well. The final of this year’s J.League Cup is scheduled to be played on November 7th, barring any other significant changes to the Japanese football calendar.