Urawa vow to stop Maeda's 'goal of death'
Japan's forward Ryoichi Maeda celebrates after scoring a goal against Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup in Doha on January 17, 2011. The Urawa Reds have vowed to stop Jubilo Iwata striker Maeda from scoring his first goal of the season Saturday, but played down his "goal of death" J-League relegation jinx.
For six straight years, whichever team Maeda has scored his first league goal against has gone on to be relegated, including 2008 Asian champions Gamba Osaka who fell from the top flight for the first time last year.
Maeda, the league's 2009 and 2010 top scorer, has yet to hit the net after four rounds of the current March-December season and Urawa Reds players said they would do everything to stop the 31-year-old at the home game.
"Finally, the moment of truth has come," Urawa defender Ryota Moriwaki told Japanese media during training on Thursday. "I am all set to deny him a goal against Urawa as well."
However, there is another statistic that may play in Urawa's favour even if Maeda does score.
In 2005, two years before the goal jinx began, he scored his season's first in a 2-2 draw with Urawa, with the Reds going on to win the prestigious domestic Emperor's Cup tournament for the first time in 25 years.
"I didn't know about that. Then let's have him score a goal and make it a good year," Moriwaki, who turns 27 on Saturday, joked.
Maeda has scored 27 international goals since 2007, 20 of them in the past three years, contributing to the Blue Samurai's march to a fourth Asian Cup title and their strong results in World Cup qualifying.
"For my part, I want you to cut it out," Maeda told the media at the start of the season when asked about his dreaded record. "I just want to score goals."
And Urawa defender Daisuke Nasu, who played with Maeda at Iwata from 2009-11, repeated that call, asking the media to stop hyping the so-called jinx.
"It's about the time Maeda should be left alone for the good of Japan," he said.
Urawa striker Shinzo Koroki said the team should concentrate on their own game.
"I know Ryoichi-san has yet to score a goal. But first of all we must put our minds to playing our brand of football," he said.
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