Sanfrecce Hiroshima sits on top of the J League by nine points going into the World Cup break. The side from Hiroshima had a strong start to the season and will be hopping that the break does not disrupt their form.
This great start to the J League season has come as a surprise for a side which stayed of relegation from the J League by just one point last season.
Despite this, the side from Hiroshima has won the J League nine times with three of them coming in the last ten years. However, they have also played in the J League 2 just last season showing just how mixed their fortunes have been.
Going into this league campaign coach Hiroshi Jofuku was looking to put a poor season behind the team and stir Sanfrecce Hiroshima to success. Jofuku himself arrived at the club in January 2018 with only one J League 2 title to his name. That coming in 2012 when he was then coach of Ventforet Kofu.
Hiroshima previous manager Jan Jönsson left the club in December 2017 having just avoided relegation in 15th place which was the clubs worse league finish since their relegation in 2007.
How then as things turned around for the side looking odds on to win the J League in the kind of turnaround of fortunes even Leicester FC fans would be proud of.
As with all title challenging teams, Sanfrecce Hiroshima needed a goalscorer this year. This season this has come in the form of Anderson Patric upfront. The Brazilian forward who signed halfway through the J League season last year. His impressive form has been backed up with good goal scoring stats as he has scored ten goals in 15 J League games so far.
While the striker has been helped up top by one of the few Thai players to ever play in Japan Teerasil Dangda. Dangda has impressed this season so far after joining the J League from Thai side Muang Thong United. He's not hit the heights of Patric yet but as still managed three goals in thirteen league matches.
The strike pairing has been helped hugely also by Hiroshima's impressive defensive displays this season so far. With the side conceding only eight goals, this would be even more impressive if they hadn't lost their last game before the break a match in which they conceded twice.
An impressive ten clean sheets so far, however, is a remarkable stat for the J League's top side. This has been helped in no small part by veteran goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi who has been ever-present this season.
Despite the team's great form, this season, they will not have any players travelling with Japan to the World Cup in the summer. With the sides midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama being cut from the squad just before the World Cup despite a decent first part of the season.
Notwithstanding all the positives the side will be disappointed they missed out on the J League Cup Play Offs while also losing their final game before the break 2-0 at home to Cerezo Osaka.
Am sure however with a break for the World Cup coach Hiroshi Jofuku and the team will be looking to really kick on when they return in July. With a home game against Gamba Osaka on the 18th July is the first league game after the World Cup.
Before this, they also have an Emperor Cup game against Gainare Tottori on the 6th June. Am sure they will be looking to do well in this - Japan's oldest competition. They will hope their good form continues as they have not won the competition since 1969 despite being runners-up eight times since.
If they are able to win a cup competition this season, time will tell but they are odds-on to win the J League this season and will be the team to look out for in the second half of the season.