Exclusive: Belgium star Thomas Vermaelen on Emperor’s Cup and Japanese Super Cup glory with J1 League giants Vissel Kobe

J1 League giants Vissel Kobe triumphantly won their second domestic trophy in consecutive seasons, the Japanese Super Cup, after defeating Ange Postecoglou’s reigning J1 League champions Yokohama F. Marinos 3-2 via penalties at 63,700 capacity Saitama Stadium in Midori-Ku on February 8, 2020.
The 2020 Japanese Super Cup Final, which climatically ended 3-3 at the end of the 90 minutes, exquisitely saw Vissel Kobe take the lead through Douglas in the 27th minute.
However, Marcos Júnior emphatically levelled the score at 1-1 for Yokohama F. Marinos nine minutes thereafter. Kyogo Furuhashi, five minutes before half-time, meanwhile ignited a surge to provide Vissel Kobe with a 2-1 lead much to the adulation of Ushi supporters.
Takahiro Ogihara, formerly of Cerezo Osaka and Nagoya Grampus, then sumptously equalized for Yokohama F. Marinos in the 54th minute to even the score at 2-2. However, Japan international midfielder, Hotaru Yamaguchi, then retaliated in the 69th minute, Vissel Kobe’s third lead of the game, before the resilient Yokohama F. Marinos stunningly capitalized again in 73rd minute, much to surprise of Vissel Kobe, via a goal from Erik, the 25-year-old Brazilian forward, currently on-loan from Palmeiras, to level the encounter at 3-3.
The Ushi, managed by Thorsten Fink, the former Bayern München midfielder, who has previously managed FC Ingolstadt 04, FC Basel, Hamburger SV, APOEL, Austria Wien and Grasshopper Club Zürich, ushered Vissel Kobe to an eighth place finish in the J1 League in the 2019 season and officially claimed his second consecutive trophy with the Japanese club since his well-documented arrival in June 2019; Vissel Kobe finished 10th in the J1 League in 2018 under Juan Manuel Lillo.
The Fink era at Vissel Kobe, captained by Spain and FC Barcelona legend, Andrés Iniesta, a four-time UEFA Champions League winner and FIFA World Cup winner, has effectively seen the J1 League club win domestic honors for the first time since being founded 54 years ago in 1966.
The National Stadium meanwhile, which played hosts to the 2019 Emperor’s Cup Final, contested by Vissel Kobe and Kashima Antlers on January 1, 2020 before 57,597 witnessed the Ushi register a 2-0 win courtesy of a Tomoya Inukai own goal and a 38th minute finish from 30-year-old forward, Noriaki Fujimoto.
Vissel Kobe, currently top of their AFC Champions League group, have scored six and conceded two after two 2020 AFC Champions League group encounters.
Vissel Kobe’s comprehensive 5-1 rout against Malaysian Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim FC on February 12, 2020 was followed by a narrow 1-0 win against Suwon Samsung Bluewings seven days later at the Suwon World Cup Stadium in South Korea, which saw Vissel Kobe score late in the 90th minute thanks to Kyogo Furuhashi; 2020 AFC Champions League action was then postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, 2020 invariably signifies the seventh consecutive season which Vissel Kobe have been in the J1 League, Japan’s top tier professional football division, since promotion from the J2 League back in 2013.
Vissel Kobe’s 2020 J1 League campaign, which commenced on February 21, currently sees the club standing 12th place after four J1 League matches. Vissel Kobe have registered five points from a possible 12 points in the J1 League and have won once, drawn twice and lost once this term under Fink; Kawasaki Frontale presently leads the J1 League with 10 points, albeit with a superior Goal difference to current second place Urawa Red Diamonds, who finished 14th in the J1 League last season.
Elsewhere, Vissel Kobe’s interview with Belgium star, Thomas Vermaelen, a worldwide exclusive for FOX Sports Radio 96.9FM/1340AM, witnessed the accomplished 34-year-old former FC Barcelona and Arsenal defender discuss acclimating to life in Japan, the overall expectations and targets for Vissel Kobe this season, winning trophies with the Ushi, the intensity of J1 League and indeed the philosophy and mentality of Vissel Kobe head coach, Thorsten Fink.
Dean Perretta
Dean Perretta is a 2x SEA Award-winning creative, Broadcast Journalist, Reporter, Courtside Analyst for BBC televised London Lions and Executive Producer who currently contributes to FOX Sports Radio, FourFourTwo Magazine and Muscle & Fitness Magazine.