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Volker Finke knew his job was not going to be easy when he took over as manager of Urawa Reds last season, and so it proved.

After years of success and silverware, Japan’s best-supported and most demanding club had lost its winning formula. The team that won the J. League in 2006 and the Asian Champions League a year later had grown bloated and listless, and Finke faced a daunting task trying to instill a new competitive edge.

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