East Asia Japan

Tokushima, Blaublitz Sets Up Gamba, Kawasaki Date

The quarterfinals of the 2020 Emperor’s Cup, compressed into a mostly-amateur team tournament due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, were played out on Wednesday December 23rd. 2020 J.League 2 champions Tokushima Vortis and 2020 J.League 3 champions Blaublitz Akita enter the competition, facing-off against the last two remaining amateur sides in the tournament in Honda FC and Fukuyama City respectively. As expected, the two pro sides give their amateur opposition a good whooping, with Tokushima dispatching Honda 3-0 and Blaublitz beating Fukuyama 3-1, with the two winners advancing to the semifinals where they will meet the 2020 J.League 1’s top two teams.

Newly-crowned J2 champs Tokushima welcome Shizuoka Prefecture-based Honda of the 4th tier Japan Football League into Vissel Kobe’s Misaki Park Stadium in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, with the visiting team – Japan’s most successful amateur side – hoping to cause a huge upset to set themselves a date with J1 runners-up Gamba Osaka in the semifinal.

However, despite a bright start to the first half, Honda soon found themselves at a disadvantage in the 42nd minute, after midfielder Tokuma Suzuki’s individual effort gave the hosts the lead. Slowly but surely Tokushima showed Honda why they are the favorites of the tie, with Tokuma completing his brace in the 50th minute after he had taken advantage of an Akira Hamashita cross, before Yuki Kakita was fouled in the penalty box in the 59th minute, allowing Tokushima skipper Ken Iwao to ensure the Shikoku-based side’s progress into the semifinal, where Gamba awaits them at the Panasonic Stadium Suita on December 27th.

Former Ratchaburi Mitr Phol head coach Ricardo Rodriguez is embarking in his final tournament with Tokushima, having signed a contract to take charge of Urawa Red Diamonds shortly after winning Tokushima this year’s J2 trophy.

Hiroshima Prefecture-based Fukuyama City, plying their trade in the fifth tier of Japanese football, made the long journey up North to Vegalta Sendai’s Yurtec Stadium in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, where Akita Prefecture-based Blaublitz were waiting for them. Taira Shige gave Blaublitz the lead after 14 minutes with an excellent response to his own shot being rebounded towards him, however Fukuyama leveled things up in the 41st minute thanks to Yusuke Yoshii’s effort. Blaublitz responded well to Fukuyama’s equalizer and regained the lead at the stroke of half-time thanks to Ken Hisatomi.

Fukuyama applied the pressure in the second half as they seek to continue their cup run, however Blaublitz showed the same defensive resilience that won them the J3 title, not allowing any gaps for the amateur side to take advantage of. With Fukuyama trying to scramble their way into the Blaublitz defense, the northern Honshu team dealt the deathblow in the 89th minute through Nao Eguchi’s free-kick.

The 3-1 win meant that Blaublitz will be challenging the reigning J1 champions Kawasaki Frontale in December 27th’s semifinal match at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium.