Croc alert for Ron­aldo in Club World Cup fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

YOKO­HAMA:

Ja­pan’s Kashima Antlers plan to un­leash a se­cret weapon to strike ter­ror into Span­ish giants Real Madrid when they meet in this week­end’s Club World Cup fi­nal: A sharp­toothed croc­o­dile. Though rel­a­tive min­nows on the world stage, a vo­ra­cious preda­tor with a deadly bite lurks in the Kashima side in the form of de­fender Naomichi Ueda, who fired a warn­ing ahead of Sun­day’s Yoko­hama clash. “I’m a croc­o­dile,” he said. “Just as a croc­o­dile will com­plete its con­quest by drag­ging its prey into the wa­ter, I just want to bring them down-whether it’s in the air or on the ground, one on one.”

Killer rep­tiles not­with­stand­ing, Kashima face over­whelm­ing odds against a Real side on a club record win streak of 36 matches. They fin­ished a dis­tant third in the J-League sea­son be­fore cap­tur­ing the cham­pi­onship play­off less than two weeks ago. But Kashima be­came the first Ja­panese side to reach the Club World Cup fi­nal af­ter stun­ning Colom­bia’s Atletico Na­cional 3-0 in mid­week. “If I don’t score again in the fi­nal, I’ll quickly be for­got­ten,” said striker Yuma Suzuki, who cel­e­brated scor­ing Kashima’s third goal in Osaka by copy­ing Ron­aldo’s trade­mark ma­cho man goal pose. “I had no choice,” added the 20-year-old, whose cel­e­bra­tion af­ter scor­ing with his first touch off the bench even set tongues wag­ging on Span­ish tele­vi­sion.

“It’s like a dream. Now I want to do it on front of Ron­aldo’s very eyes.” Whether or not his child­hood idol Ron­aldo sees the funny side is likely to de­pend on the score in Yoko­hama but a de­fi­ant Suzuki told Ja­pan’s Nikkan Sports: “I will show Real Madrid how Ja­panese foot­ball has grown.” Real coach Zine­dine Zi­dane in­sisted the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons and Span­ish league lead­ers would not un­der­es­ti­mate the pug­na­cious Antlers as his side chases a sec­ond world ti­tle in three years.

“It’s ba­si­cally a home game for them so the con­di­tions favour them,” said the French­man af­ter his side’s com­fort­able 2-0 semi-fi­nal win over Club Amer­ica. “For us it’s all about re­cov­er­ing prop­erly for to­mor­row. We will study the Antlers be­tween now and the fi­nal and we’ll be ready.” While Real’s col­lec­tion of global su­per­stars are ex­pected to ease to vic­tory, Suzuki al­ready has his heart set on a con­so­la­tion prize-Ron­aldo’s shirt.

“Hope­fully I can get to him first and get it,” he said af­ter train­ing yesterday. “He might be the en­emy dur­ing the game but af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle I’ll be his great­est fan again.” — AFP

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