Gamba Osaka will be out to ruin Guido Buchwald’s farewell party when it meets holders Urawa Reds in what promises to be an emotionally charged Emperor’s Cup final in Tokyo on New Year’s Day.
Monday’s showdown will be Buchwald’s last match in charge of the Reds before he returns to Germany, and Shinji Ono and Co. are hoping to give the affable 45-year-old the perfect send off by completing a league and cup double at National Stadium.
However, Buchwald has brushed aside all talk of sentiment as he begins plotting the downfall of a Gamba side still licking its wounds after being pipped to the J. League championship trophy on the final day of the league campaign in Saitama in early December.
“I am not thinking about this match because it is my last game. It would have been my last if we had lost today,” Buchwald told reporters after Urawa’s 2-1 semifinal win over Kashima Antlers on Friday. “I have been given an opportunity to go out on a winning note in the final. But at this moment the only thing on my mind is Gamba Osaka.”
“Our attention turns to the final and we must just stay focused and try and wrap up the season with a victory,” said Buchwald, whose team rode its luck at times en route to the final.
Urawa was the beneficiary of some dubious officiating in its 10-9 penalty shootout win over Jubilo Iwata in the last eight and there was an element of good fortune in the semis as Robson Ponte’s deflected winner saw off a Kashima side that had dominated for long periods at National Stadium.
But Buchwald was quick to pay tribute to his side, which was without star striker Washington, newly crowned J. League Player of the Year Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Keisuke Tsuboi and recently departed winger Alessandro Santos.
“We made plenty of chances in the second half but couldn’t score and the way we defended on the set piece that led to Kashima’s equalizer was disappointing,” said Buchwald.
“But we managed to turn it around and even though Robby’s (Ponte’s) goal took a deflection, it came from a well-worked move,” he said.
Gamba has yet to beat Urawa this season. It lost 3-1 in the Xerox Cup, the season’s curtain raiser, and drew 1-1 at Expo Stadium on the opening day of the campaign before league action finished with a 3-2 loss on Dec. 2.
Akira Nishino’s men had tasted defeat on their previous five appearances in the Emperor’s Cup semifinals but they broke that jinx by edging second-division Consadole Sapporo 2-1 to reach the final for the first time since the professional J. League began in 1993.
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