Kashima Antlers Facts and figures

Former stars Zico, Santos, Leonardo, Jorginho, Yasuto Honda, Yoshiyuki Hasegawa, Tadatoshi Masuda, Yutaka Akita, Naoki Soma, Mazinho, Takayuki Suzuki, Atsushi Yanagisawa, Bismarck, Koji Nakata, Bebeto, Daiki Iwamasa, Atsuto Uchida, Yuya Osako.

Key players Mitsuo Ogasawara, Hitoshi Sogahata, Mu Kanazaki, Gaku Shibasaki, Hwang Seokho, Yasushi Endo.

Qualifying statistics The J.League’s most solid defense, combined with clinical finishing up front, propelled Kashima to victory in the season’s first stage. Antlers leaked just ten goals in 17 games and produced some excellent performances against other title contenders, including a 1-1 draw with Kawasaki Frontale (who finished the season second overall), an emphatic 4-1 win over last season’s champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima and a 2-0 victory over Urawa Reds, who finished first overall.

Mu Kanazaki and Shoma Doi led the Kashima attack, which was backed up by a well-organised defence . However, the second stage was a completely different story: team unity crumbled and Kashima plunged to finish the stage in 11th place. The conceding of 24 goals in the second stage’s 17 games epitomises how far Antlers slipped in the latter half of the season.

Nevertheless, Kashima finished third overall and qualified for the championship play-offs. Kanazaki scored the decisive goal in a gutsy 1-0 away victory over Frontale in the semi-final play-off as Kashima advanced to the two-legged final. Antlers were defeated 1-0 in the opener at home but ground out a come-from-behind 2-1 win in the return leg thanks to a brace by Kanazaki. Although the score finished 2-2 on aggregate, Kashima were declared champions based on the away goals rule.

The numbers game 8 – Kashima Antlers have won the J.League’s top division eight times, the most of any club during the league’s 24-year history.