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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Hajime Moriyasu Selected as AFC's 2022 Coach of the Year

In recognition for leading Japan to victories over previous World Cup champions Spain and Germany in 2022, Hajime Moriyasu received the prestigious honor.

Hajime Moriyasu is the Asian Football Confederation's 2022 Men's Coach of the Year.

The Samurai Blue boss received the honor at the AFC's annual awards ceremony on Tuesday, October 31 in Doha, Qatar.

Moriyasu garnered consideration for the award based on the Japan men's national soccer team's accomplishments at the sport's biggest competition. He led the Samurai Blue to a pair of 2-1 victories over former World Cup champions Germany and Spain at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on November 23 and December 1.

Croatia eliminated Japan on penalties in the round of 16 on December 5, 2022. 

Although Japan fell short of its goal of reaching the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time, it did advance to the round of 16 for the second consecutive time.

"I am very pleased to receive this award but at the same time, I must stress that this is a tribute to all my backroom staff, to my players," Moriyasu said at the awards ceremony. "Everything we accomplished on the pitch is a result of all the hard work of my players and my staff and I dedicate this award to them."

Japan is currently ranked No 18 in the latest world rankings. 

With Moriyasu leading the squad, Japan has cobbled together a six-game winning streak in international friendlies.

Up next: The Samurai Blue face Myanmar in the second round of World Cup Asian qualifiers on November 16 at Panasonic Stadium Suita in Osaka Prefecture. After that, Japan travels to face Syria in another qualifier on November 21 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Hajime Moriyasu
Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu in a December 2022 file photo. (Carl Recine/REUTERS)

Hajima Moriyasu Stays in Charge

Moriyasu, a former Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Japan Under-23 national team manager, has led the Samurai Blue since 2018, replacing Akira Nishino after that year's FIFA World Cup in Russia.

In December 2022, the Japan Football Association announced it would give Moriyasu a contract extension through the 2026 World Cup.

As a result, Moriyasu is seeking to bolster the team's overall foundation. A 4-1 away victory over Germany on September 9 in Wolfsburg in an international friendly provided a solid measuring stick for the team.

But Moriyasu refuses to be satisfied after any match. For instance, after facing Germany, he told reporters: "We need to be more compact, everyone must defend, everyone needs to attack, we need to react dynamically," Agence France-Presse reported.

The 55-year-old mentor also offered this critique of his squad: "We need to not only congratulate ourselves, but we need to continue our development. There are more teams, more challenges, so in this sense, we have many more tasks."

In other words, continuous improvement is a foundational goal, one that played a part in Moriyasu earning the AFC Coach of the Year award.

Avispa Fukuoka jubilate after winning the 2023 Levain Cup final at National Stadium on November 4 in Tokyo. (ⒸSANKEI)

Avispa Fukuoka Defeat Urawa Reds in Levain Cup Final

First-half goals from Hiroyuki Mae and Daiki Miya propelled Avispa Fukuoka to a 2-1 triumph over the Urawa Reds in the Levain Cup final on Saturday, November 4 at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Mae gave Avispa the early lead in the fifth minute, while teammate Miya doubled the advantage in first-half injury time.

Urawa's Takahiro Akimoto scored in the 67th minute of the annual tournament also known as the J.League Cup.

In the ongoing 2023 season, Fukuoka is in eighth place in the 18-team J.League first division.

"We've been blessed with the teammates and supporters we have. All the hard work really pays off when we get to savor moments like this," Avispa captain Tatsuki Nara said, according to Kyodo News.

The veteran defender added, "We aren't the best side in terms of technique or brilliance, but we all put our bodies on the line and really managed to show what Avispa are all about until the last moment."

Founded in 1982 as Chuo Bohan SC and based in Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture, the soccer club joined the J.League in 1993 and moved to Fukuoka in 1994, becoming the Fukuoka Flux. The nickname Avispa was adopted in 1996.

Shohei Ohtani (KYODO)

It's just a shoe!

Baseball

In-Demand Star Ohtani Becomes a Free Agent

Which team will sign Shohei Ohtani to a lucrative contract?

That's the biggest question of the 2023 MLB offseason. 

On Thursday, November 2, a day after the World Series ended, 130 MLB players became free agents, including Ohtani.

The multi-talented Iwate Prefecture native is expected to command a contract in the $500-$600 million USD (¥75.1 billion JPY to ¥90.2 billion JPY) range.

Will Ohtani consider re-signing with the Los Angeles Angels, whose long run of futility has been one of the defining storylines of his MLB career? 

Or will he accept an offer from numerous suitors? The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and New York Yankees are among 10 teams that ESPN predicted will make a run at signing Ohtani.

In related news, Ohtani was selected as the American League Outstanding Player Award for the Players Choice Awards, it was announced by Major League Baseball on Thursday, November 2.

Ohtani led the AL with 44 home runs in the 2023 season and batted .304. He was 10-5 as a starting pitcher before his season was cut short as a pitcher due to an elbow injury in August.

"As a player, it has a special meaning to be selected by your peers, not only by your teammates but also by your rivals," Ohtani remarked in a video released by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Masahiro Tanaka (ⒸSANKEI)

Eagles' Tanaka Undergoes Elbow Surgery

After a disappointing 2023 season, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles starter Masahiro Tanaka will be sidelined this offseason after recently undergoing elbow surgery.

The Pacific League club announced the news on Wednesday, November 1, adding that he will need four months to recover from surgery before pitching again.

Tanaka finished the 2023 season with a 7-11 record and a 4.91 ERA in 24 games.

"I had surgery to be fully ready for next season," the 35-year-old Tanaka commented in a video posted on his YouTube channel. "If things go smoothly, I can participate in normal training without any restrictions from the start of spring camp."

EASL
Chiba Jets big man John Mooney shoots a layup in the second quarter as TNT Tropang Giga's Quincy Miller defends at Santa Rosa Sports Complex in Santa Rosa, Philippines, on November 1. (EASL)

Basketball

Jets Improve to 3-0 in the East Asia Super League

John Mooney scored 30 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Chiba Jets to a 75-66 victory over TNT Tropang Giga in an East Asia Super League Group A clash on Wednesday, November 1 in Santa Rosa, Philippines.

Chiba (3-0) built a 50-32 lead by halftime.

DJ Stephens finished with 15 points, 10 assists, and three blocks, while Jets captain Yuki Togashi had 14 points and five assists.

Quincy Miller had a team-high 22 points for TNT (0-2).

"I am proud of my team for getting this win after a series of tough games," Jets head coach John Patrick said. "The Chiba Jets played two games in the EASL and nine games in the B. League in October, completing a total of 11 games in one month."

Contrasting the two teams, Patrick noted that TNT hasn't begun its domestic league season yet in the Philippines. 

"The Chiba Jets took a big lead in the game in the first half," Patrick noted. "However, in the second half, their momentum dropped off, perhaps due to fatigue."

The Jets opened their EASL campaign with a 93-75 win over TNT on October 11 at Funabashi Arena.

Chiba (5-4 in the B.League through October 29) has a long break before its next EASL match on December 13 against the Korea Basketball League's Anyang JungKwanJang Red Boosters at Anyang Gymnasium.

EASL
Ryukyu Golden Kings guard Keita Imamura drives to the basket in the second half in an EASL Group B match against the Seoul SK Knights on November 1 at Goyang Sono Gymnasium. (EASL)

Golden Kings Slip to 1-1 in the EASL

The Seoul SK Knights defeated the visiting Ryukyu Golden Kings 82-69 in an EASL Group B game on Wednesday, November 1.

It was the teams' second match of the 2023-24 EASL season. In their first encounter, Ryukyu recorded an 80-79 win at Okinawa Arena on October 18.

Leon Williams paced the Knights with 23 points and 17 rebounds. 

Seoul outrebounded reigning B.League champion Ryukyu 43-30.

The Golden Kings shot 37% from the field. Keita Imamura led the squad with 15 points and teammate Allen Durham scored 14.

"In the first quarter, I think we allowed Seoul SK to play the kind of basketball they wanted to play in the offensive portion of the game," Golden Kings coach Dai Oketani told reporters after the game. "We were not clear on where to attack, and there were times when we could not finish with good shots, which was a point of regret. I think the players made adjustments during the game. 

"This game made me realize how important it is to reduce the number of bad periods in the game."

Ryukyu is back in action in the EASL on November 15 against the visiting Meralco Bolts, a Philippines Basketball Association team.

RELATED:


New Zealand's Sam Cane is seen during a Rugby World Cup training session in Lyon, France on October 4. (Paul Childs/REUTERS)

Rugby

New Zealand's Cane Joins Tokyo Sungoliath

After skippering New Zealand to a runner-up finish at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, All Blacks captain Sam Cane is set to take a one-season sabbatical from Super Rugby in the 2024 campaign.

Instead of suiting up for New Zealand's Waikato Chiefs, loose forward Cane will play for Japan Rugby League One's Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath in the upcoming 2023-24 season, which kicks off on December 9.

Cane, 31, has earned 95 caps playing for the All Blacks.

The sabbatical from Super Rugby is worked into Cane's contract, according to published reports.

"It wasn't an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs," Cane was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. "But I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and coaching group to have a successful 2024.

"When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time, following the Rugby World Cup, to try something new."

RELATED: 


Takuya Haneda competes in the men's slalom canoe singles event at the Canoe Slalom Asian Championship on Sunday, October 29. (KYODO)

Briefly…

Four-time Japanese Olympian Takuya Haneda, a slalom canoe singles specialist, has qualified to compete at the 2024 Paris Games.

Haneda, 36, secured a berth by winning the event at the Canoe Slalom Asian Championship on Sunday, October 29 at Tokyo's Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre.

"I have spent every day feeling tense in preparation for today, and it has paid off," Haneda was quoted as saying by NHK.

He added, "I was under a lot of pressure to make it to the Olympics for the fifth time. But I'm relieved that I was able to overcome the pressure."

In other news, Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura has missed the team's past three games after being placed in the NBA's concussion protocol. He was originally diagnosed with a left eye contusion after the Lakers' October 29 game against the Sacramento Kings.


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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