Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Typhoon fails to dampen the spirits of Japanese squad

AFP , HANOI

Vietnam's first typhoon of the year failed to dampen Japan's spirits as they launched final preparations in Hanoi in heavy rain for their tough campaign to win a third straight Asian Cup.

"I think it will rain about this time of the day when the match is held. So it is great that rain fell on our first training day," Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura said of the storm system cutting across northern Vietnam.

Japan, who play Asian Games champions Qatar in their Group B opener on Monday, had their first workout on Thursday evening after arriving in Hanoi 20 hours earlier in the middle of the rainy season. Another session was scheduled for late yesterday.

"The ball ran so fast in the rain on this grass. It ground to a halt whenever the rain let up a bit," said the 2004 Asian Cup most valuable player, 29, himself seeking a third straight title.

"The boots get heavy when they get wet. It gets tougher to handle the ball," he said.

As a precaution, Nakamura, who helped Celtic to the Scottish Premier League title last season, has brought all-weather boots with interchangeable components.

Like Nakamura, center-back Yuji Nakazawa, 29, also a veteran of two previous Asian Cups, shrugged off the weather factor.

"I think the weather is not so different from Japan. I don't care much," said the gutsy Yokohama Marinos defender.

"What we need to do is run," he said, citing coach Ivica's persistent orders to run hard and play flexibly.

"We must go on in high spirits, you may call it a show of bravado. But it is really needed here as it is hot and the rain tends to dampen our mood," he said.

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