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Are Avispa Fukuoka the worst team in J. League history?
We couldnt win the match, Avispa Fukuoka coach Yoshiyuki Shinoda told the J. League website after his sides scoreless draw with Vissel Kobe. But we did get a point, which we hadnt done before, and I think that is half a step forward.
At the rate theyre going Avispa should end up with around 3.4 points come the end of the season, although the Kyushu side no doubt harbour far loftier ambitions than that. The promoted outfit are undoubtedly one of the worst teams to ever grace the Japanese top flight, but the question remains: can they collect more than 16 points by the end of the season?
Since the single-season era begun in 2005, two teams - both from Kanagawa - have accumulated the record-low total of 16 points. The truly hopeless Yokohama FC befouled J1 with their presence in 2007, yet the Kazu Miura-lead side are best remembered for beating Urawa Reds on the final day of the season, thus denying the Saitama giants the title. The similarly hapless Shonan Bellmare presented themselves up for weekly slaughter in 2010, but neither looked as ill-prepared for life in the top flight as Avispa Fukuoka.
The 2010 second division campaign saw two teams slug it out in a heated battle for the title. Neither of them was Avispa Fukuoka. In the end, Kashiwa Reysol ran away with the silverware after Ventforet Kofu dropped their pace towards the back end of the campaign. Fukuoka finished in third, just a point behind Kofu but a world away from the slick passing football favoured by Brazilian coach Nelsinho and his impressive Kashiwa side.
Two of Avispas best players throughout their promotion campaign were tricky winger Genki Nagasato and fan favourite Tetsuya Okubo. Nagasato was top scorer with 15 goals as the Hornets returned to the top flight following a four-year absence, while the popular Okubo enjoyed a close relationship with fans thanks to his nine goals and a larger than life personality. Both were sold during the off-season. To make matters worse for coach Shinoda, his other star man Kosuke Nakamachi picked up an injury early in the new campaign, prompting Avispa to lose their opening nine games straight.
The addition of loan signings Daiki Niwa, Takuya Matsuura and Kentaro Shigematsu fails to hide the fact that quality is absent from virtually every position on the pitch. Ryuichi Kamiyama and Yuji Rokutan look set to battle it out in a goalkeeping duel of inept proportions not seen since JEF United last graced the top flight. Ex-Japan international Makoto Tanaka can do little to stem the wave of attacks pouring towards his back four, while youngsters Jun Suzuki and Toshiya Sueyoshi have been on the receiving end of some brutal home truths in the midfield.
Perhaps the starkest example of Avispas lack of quality is up front, where Hisashi Jogo and Hideya Okamoto - with help from the ineffective Shigematsu - form perhaps the most toothless strike force ever seen in J1. Avispa have scored just eight goals in their ten games played to date, whilst conceding 25 at the same time.
Not surprisingly, crowds at Hakatanomori are reflective of just how much trouble Avispa are in. Just over 10,000 fans bothered to turn out on the opening day of the season for Avispas return to top flight action - a 3-0 thumping at the hands of unheralded Albirex Niigata. Attendances have been going backwards ever since, and when the only two winless sides left in the league met in Round 14, barely 6,000 fans showed up to see Avispa hammered 3-0 by the suddenly vibrant Cerezo Osaka.
For ex-player Shinoda, 2011 could be a year of record lows. The man who played more than 200 times for Avispa will hope to hang on to his job until the end of the season, by which time the hapless Hornets will have been summarily dispatched back to J2. In turn, theyll hope to have done so with more than 16 points in the bag, as potentially the worst J. League team ever battles to avoid collecting an unwanted statistical souvenir on their travels.
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