Football

Suzuki wants to imitate Ron and irritate Real

Japan's Kashima Antlers plan to unleash a secret weapon to strike terror into Spanish giants Real Madrid when they meet in the Club World Cup final tomorrow: a sharp-toothed 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 the clash in Yokohama.

"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 winning streak of 36 matches.

They finished a distant third in the J.League before capturing the championship play-off 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 marked scoring Kashima's third goal in Osaka by copying Ronaldo's trademark goal celebration.

"I had no choice," added the 20-year-old, whose celebration after scoring with his first touch off the bench set tongues wagging even on Spanish television.

"It's like a dream.

"Now I want to do it in 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 chase a second world title in three years.

"It's basically a home game for them, so the conditions favour them," said the Frenchman.

"For us, it's all about recovering properly for Sunday.

"We will study the Antlers between now and the final and we'll be ready."

- AFP

cristiano ronaldoREAL MADRIDFootball