Back at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens for a fourth time and third successive year, Japan’s Kashima Antlers struggled last year after impressing in 2016.
Kashima finished bottom of their group in 2017 before losing 5-0 in the semi-finals of the Plate against Bayer Leverkusen. Kashima are Japan’s most successful club by a considerable distance and they enjoyed the best year in their history in 2016.
After winning a record eighth J.League crown as well as a fifth Emperor’s Cup, Kashima went on to oust Colombia’s Atletico Nacional in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup to become Asia’s first representatives in the final. And after taking a 2-1 lead against Real Madrid in the final, it took a Ronaldo-inspired performance to rescue the Spaniards and claim a 4-2 victory after extra time.
Kashima missed out on a record-extending ninth J.League title last year on the final day of the 2017 season when their 0-0 draw with bitter rivals Jubilo Iwata allowed Kawasaki Frontale to climb to the summit and claim the championship. Kashima have a reputation for producing future internationals with Gaku Shibasaki – who scored both goals against Madrid – and Atsuto Uchida both going on to earn moves to Europe with Spanish side Tenerife and German side Schalke respectively.