Tag Archives: japanese

Lionel Messi proves he is human after being foiled by a Japanese moving robot

Man v Machine: Messi proves he is human after all… as he is foiled by a Japanese moving robot

By
Andy James

PUBLISHED:

11:25 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

02:48 GMT, 9 April 2013

This might be the only way for managers to stop Lionel Messi in his tracks – by signing a Japanese goalkeeping robot.

Messi has been branded a killing machine after rattling in 57 goals this season.

His exploits have left managers in La Liga and throughout Europe tearing their hair out as just how to halt the Argentine striker.

Scroll down for video

Man v machine: Messi prepares to step up against the robot

Man v machine: Messi prepares to step up against the robot goalkeeper

Not spot on: Messi steps up for his penalty (above) and sees his spot-kick saved (below)

Not spot on: Messi steps up for his penalty (above) and sees his spot-kick saved (below)

Messi pen:

But the Barcelona frontman, considered by many as the game's greatest ever player, struggled when the man took on the machine in a game show broadcast on Japanese TV.

Messi took three penalties against the moving piece of cardboard – but missed his first two spot-kicks.

He is human after all then.

VIDEO Messi goes head-to-head with a robot in a penalty shoot-out

Messi takes on robot in penalty shoot-out

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Simon Whitlock advances in the World Darts Championship after beating Haruki Muramatsu

Magic! The Wizard wins with an easy victory over Muramatsu

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UPDATED:

01:02 GMT, 20 December 2012

Former World Championship finalist Simon Whitlock barely broke sweat on day six at Alexandra Palace as he breezed past Japanese qualifier Haruki Muramatsu 3-0.

The Wizard averaged 95.5 as he brushed aside the spirited Muramatsu in straight sets and moved into the second round of the World Darts Championship, where he will play Colin Osborne.

There was some uncharacteristic double trouble for Whitlock in the first leg as a hat-trick of missed double 10s allowed the Japanese player to take an early lead.

No sweat: Simon The Wizard Whitlock barely broke sweat as he breezed past Haruki Muramatsu 3-0 in the World Darts Championship

No sweat: Simon The Wizard Whitlock barely broke sweat as he breezed past Haruki Muramatsu 3-0 in the World Darts Championship

But after hitting double 10 at the third attempt in leg two, The Wizard eased to a one-set lead as he hit a 13-dart finish in leg three before a double 16 in leg four to seal the set 3-1.

The pair held their own throw at the start of the second leg, before the Aussie moved ahead with a 48 checkout in leg three. Whitlock then secured the second set by the same 3-1 margin as the first with a 116 finish in leg four.

And Whitlock won the third set 3-1 as well as he secured the crucial break in leg three before finishing the match with a double 18 finish.

Home time: Dennis The Menace lost 3-1 to Ronnie The Rocket Baxter (below)

Home time: Dennis The Menace lost 3-1 to Ronnie The Rocket Baxter (below)

Ronnie Baxter

Ronnie Baxter also won on Wednesday night as he got the better of two-time world champion Dennis ‘The Menace’ Priestley 3-1.

The Rocket went two sets up and, after losing the third set in a deciding leg, closed out a four-set win against Priestley.

Baxter did the damage early on as he hit a 13-dart leg on the way to taking the opening set 3-1.

But The Menace had chances of his own as he missed two shots to win the second set, in the fourth leg, before losing it 3-2.

The third set also went to a deciding leg as this time it was Baxter’s turn to miss opportunities. The Rocket let five chances to take the match slip through his fingers and, as a result, was stretched to a fourth set.

But then it was Priestley’s turn to spurn opportunities and there was no coming back this time. After making a strong start to the set, Priestley missed four shots at a double to extend the match into a final set which left Baxter to seal the win by hitting double 10 in the deciding leg of set four.

Scare: Colin Lloyd had a massive scare against the American Darin Young but Jaws eventually won 3-2

Scare: Colin Lloyd had a massive scare against the American Darin Young but Jaws eventually won 3-2

2002 world finalist Colin Lloyd survived a massive scare as he beat American Darin Young 3-2 to set up a second round tie with former BDO world champion Mark Webster.

It was a match that swung one way and then another but Jaws eventually prevailed 6-4 in a dramatic fifth set.

Young took the opening set with a 144 checkout in leg four before Lloyd responded to take the second set in a deciding leg.

And, after a break each followed by a hold of throw apiece, Young hit double 16 to win the deciding leg of set three to take a 2-1 lead.

But the 2005 World Matchplay champion quickly wiped out the deficit as he took the fourth set 3-0 to send the match into a decider. Jaws held his own throw in the opening leg and then hit double 16 to break in leg two before a clinical 124 checkout sealed the set and brought him level.

And Lloyd appeared to be cruising towards victory as he broke in the opening leg of set five before a 64 checkout moved him 2-0 up.

But the drama had only just begun as Young won the next leg before capitalising on Lloyd’s missed 68 finish in leg four to level at 2-2 with a 77 checkout.

Jaws then went back ahead with a 51 checkout to break but the American followed up with a 115 checkout of his own and the players were locked at 3-3.

Dominant: Justin Pipe (pictured) won with an easy victory over Andy Jenkins

Dominant: Justin Pipe (pictured) won with an easy victory over Andy Jenkins

DAY SIX RESULTS

Justin Pipe 3-0 Andy Jenkins
Ronnie Baxter 3-1 Dennis Priestley
Colin Lloyd 3-2 Darin Young
Simon Whitlock 3-0 Haruki Muramatsu

But, after Young won the seventh leg to move 4-3 ahead, Lloyd reeled off three straight legs to seal a tense 6-4 final-set win.

In Wednesday’s other match, Justin Pipe started the night with a dominant 3-0 win over Andy Jenkins.

The 41-year-old from Taunton won the first two sets without dropping a leg before completing his easy victory with a 3-2 third-set win.

Thursday sees the remaining four first round matches take place with Dutch duo Vincent van der Voort and World Grand Prix champion Michael van Gerwen topping the bill. Kim Huybrechts is also in action before round two begins on Friday afternoon at Ally Pally.

Chelsea flight to UK delayed by Japan"s noise restriction laws

Chelsea's return to the UK delayed thanks to Japanese noise restriction laws… leaving little time to prepare for Leeds cup clash

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UPDATED:

13:05 GMT, 16 December 2012

Chelsea's already hampered preparations for their Capital One Cup quarter-final against Leeds on Wednesday have been dealt another blow – thanks to Japanese noise restriction laws.

The Blues were hoping to return from Tokyo after the conclusion of the Club World Cup final this morning, but their flight has been put back to Monday, as reported by the Guardian.

Delayed: Chelsea's flight has been put back to Monday thanks to Japanese noise restriction laws

Delayed: Chelsea's flight has been put back to Monday thanks to Japanese noise restriction laws

Schedule from hell

Saturday Dec 8 – Flew 5,916 miles from Newcastle to Narita, Japan, via Finland after beating Sunderland 3-1.

Thursday Dec 13 – Beat Monterrey 3-1 in Yokohama (N)

Sunday Dec 16 – Playing Corinthians in Yokohama (N)

Monday Dec 17 – Believed to be flying 5,953 miles to Heathrow airport

Wednesday Dec 19 – Playing Leeds (A)

Sunday Dec 23 – Playing Aston Villa (H)

They will spend an extra night in
Yokohama and arrive back in England tomorrow afternoon, ahead of what is
sure to be a fiery cup tie at Elland Road.

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez's time to prepare for the match has been drastically limited by the trip to Japan.

Benitez says he cannot work out which players will be ready to play against Leeds until the side return to the country.

He was already upset with the state of his side's fitness – he analysed the squad after he arrived and said many of the players were exhausted.

Playing on Thursday and Sunday morning and making two long-haul flights will take its toll on Chelsea's players.

Tired: Ashley Cole (right) and his colleagues will be exhausted after two games and two long-haul flights

Tired: Ashley Cole (right) and his colleagues will be exhausted after two games and two long-haul flights

Back home, skipper John Terry was hoping to be fit for the clash but will not be considered as he continues recovering from his knee injury.

Daniel Sturridge is also close to a return from a hamstring injury but needs to be assessed to see if he is ready to play.

Royal Trophy 2012: Ryo Ishikawa could make the difference in Brunei

Japan's superstar Ishikawa could be the difference in Asia's bid to topple Europe in Royal Trophy

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UPDATED:

15:48 GMT, 15 December 2012

The first thing that set Ryo Ishikawa apart from the other golfers at the Royal Trophy, Ryder Cup stars and all, came during the tournament’s opening ceremony.

Each player was introduced to polite and respectful applause. Then came Ryo, and suddenly the room was not filled with dignitaries and journalists but squealing teenagers.

Ishikawa attracts a fanatical following from his homeland of Japan wherever he plays across the globe. Whenever he takes to the course there are as many photographers as paying spectators following his every move.

Eyes on the prize: Ishikawa struck two outstanding shots in the fourballs

Eyes on the prize: Ishikawa struck two outstanding shots in the fourballs

Young, squeaky clean, good looking but entirely unthreatening… as a colleague here in Brunei put it, Ishikawa could well be described as the Justin Bieber of golf.

But, like when asking anyone over the age of 16 what their favourite Bieber song is, mention Ishikawa and most golf fans’ faces will turn blank.

To be fair to Ryo, his music does not make a proportion of the public want to pull their own fingernails out. Although it must be said we’ve never heard him sing. Let’s keep it that way.

So what’s all the fuss about Well, apart from the boyband looks, he donated his earnings on tour in 2011 to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief fund, plus an additional 750 for every birdie he made during the year. So he’s a nice boy – but is he a top-class golfer

The Ishikawa frenzy erupted when he became the youngest ever winner on the Japan Golf Tour aged just 15. Now 21, Ryo has won another 10 titles but only last month ended a barren run of two years without a victory. He has also never made his presence felt at any of the major championships, beyond the sizable boost to the local economies provided by the ever-present, and ultimately disappointed, throng of Japanese tourists.

Joining the scrum following Ishikawa during his fourball match at the Royal Trophy on Saturday, there were encouraging signs early on.

Up for grabs: The Royal Trophy was on display as Ye Yang tees off

Up for grabs: The Royal Trophy was on display as Ye Yang tees off

A wedge approach into the par-four first was accompanied by a long, posed follow-through – the equivalent of the ‘save for the cameras’ in football – as the ball flew straight at the flag and stopped four feet from the pin.

Ishikawa is known as ‘the Bashful Prince’ back home, but this was a showman working the crowd in a way the rather arrogant Prince, of musical fame, would approve.

But it was not to last. The putt shaved the hole leaving Ishikawa flabbergasted. A stunning approach to the fifth was a rare highlight in a round consisting mainly of piercing drives but sloppy iron play.

Despite being 50 yards longer off the tee than one of his opponents, Francesco Molinari, he was unable to match the two-time Ryder Cup veteran’s precision into the greens.

Then he started to falter off the tee too, splashing down in the lake with an ugly slice on the eighth, and began to find fairway bunkers with ease.

As Duran Duran might have sung, his name is Ryo and he likes playing from the sand. Ishikawa and fellow Japenese Yoshinori Fujimoto found themselves two holes down to the Molinari brothers at the turn and wilting in the stifling tropical heat.

All looked lost, but Fujimoto had other ideas. Sleeves pulled up, in the manner of Andy Roddick, over his impossibly square shoulders, he started firing at pins and sparked life back into the contest. And then, the moment we’d all been waiting for.

Raptures: Ishikawa received a warm reception in the opening ceremony, a much louder applause than Ryder Cup stars such as Miguel Angel Jimenez

Raptures: Ishikawa received a warm reception in the opening ceremony, a much louder applause than Ryder Cup stars such as Miguel Angel Jimenez

With his playing partner in trouble after driving towards the beach on the 549-yard long 15th, an under-pressure Ishikawa launched a lusty blow off the tee before firing a laser-guided missile into the green. His ball finished nine feet from the pin and the putt was sunk for an eagle three, the first of the week on any par-five here.

The fire was lit in Ishikawa’s belly and he followed that with another belter into the green at the short 16th.

Fujimoto’s birdie meant he did not need to complete his own near-certain two. After finding sand off the tee on the 17th, he blasted his approach out of the bunker to 10 feet. The Molinaris missed longer birdie putts and the match was over, the Japanese winning three up.

It wasn’t the most polished performance and it remains to be seen whether he can succeed under such an intense media glare. Helping Asia to come from a point behind and beat Europe in Sunday’s singles here may also be beyond his powers.

He takes on Henrik Stenson tomorrow.

But with two of the most fabulous blows you will ever see in any golf tournament across the globe, this young superstar won a new admirer.

If Ishikawa really is the Justin Bieber of golf… then I’m a Belieber.

Rafael Benitez says Chelsea can still win title

We can still win the title! Chelsea boss Benitez believes Blues can come from behind and see off Manchester rivals

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UPDATED:

00:44 GMT, 15 December 2012

Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea can still win the league — even if they enter the Christmas period 13 points adrift of Manchester United.

Chelsea will be trailing the league leaders by a substantial margin if United win at home to Sunderland on Saturday, while Chelsea attempt to win the Club World Cup against Corinthians on Sunday.

Child's play: Rafael Benitez meets Japanese children in Yokohama on Sunday

Child's play: Rafael Benitez meets Japanese children in Yokohama on Sunday

Yet Benitez hopes to use a positive result in that tournament, and the glory of being crowned world champions after less than a month in charge, to inspire his players to refocus their attentions at home.

And he is refusing to give up on the big one: his first domestic league title as a manager in England.

Speaking at his team’s base in Yokohama, Benitez said: ‘I did not see the Manchester derby, but people told me about it and I agree it (the title) is not a two-horse race. People have asked me whether it is over already, but realistically, with three points for a win, if you get victories two or three games in a row you have more confidence and then it is different.

What's so funny, Rafa Benitez smiles at his players during training

What's so funny, Rafa Benitez smiles at his players during training

‘If we win here and play like we did against Monterrey in the semi-final, we can go on a run. We play good football and with the quality we have going forward and the right balance in defence, this team can win many games in a row easily. How many I don’t know, but once you start that with three or four, the confidence will go so high, why not

‘At Liverpool, we had an 11-game stretch, drew against Arsenal and won the other 10. So why can’t we do the same at Chelsea It is just a question of confidence. If you are strong enough, compact enough, we can do this. But these things will take some time to adjust.

Blue is the colour: Chelsea players are preparing for Sunday's World Club Cup final

Blue is the colour: Chelsea players are preparing for Sunday's World Club Cup final

‘What we do depends on the team. At Valencia, I had three years: the first really good, the second fine, the third amazing. Why Repeating the same exercises with clever people, they could understand.

‘As for winning the league at Chelsea, when I talk to the players here, I can see in their faces that they have the belief. So I know what we are doing is working. The roles and the movements we are
asking of them in training is working. I don’t have any doubt about the things I can do.’

Rafa Benitez is mobbed by Chelsea fans – in Japan

It's 6,000 miles from Stamford Bridge but Rafa is popular at last (while Chelsea stars get mobbed at Starbucks)

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UPDATED:

11:57 GMT, 11 December 2012

Rafa Benitez may be struggling to win over the Chelsea fans back in England, but over in Japan the Blues’ faithful can’t get enough of their interim boss.

He was not the only one to receive a warm welcome from the Japanese fans, as Petr Cech and Paulo Ferreira were mobbed as they waited in line at a local Starbucks.

The European champions are in Yokohama preparing for their FIFA Club World Cup against Mexican side Monterrey on Thursday.

Sign here please: Rafael Benitez signs autographs for fans as he leaves the team hotel

Sign here please: Rafael Benitez signs autographs for fans as he leaves the team hotel

Happy to be here: Benitez looked happy to take time out to sign autographs for the fans

Happy to be here: Benitez looked happy to take time out to sign autographs for the fans

And ahead of training on Tuesday the Spanish manager was greeted by fans wanting his autograph, which was a far cry from the boos and jeers that welcomed him at Stamford Bridge when he was unveiled as manager last month against Manchester City.

And the Chelsea players were happy to get to know the locals as Ferreira purchased a 'Yokohama Starbucks' coffee mug as a souvenir but goalkeeper Cech opted to save his money as dozens of fans in Chelsea shirts swarmed around them in a local Starbucks.

Fan crazy: Petr Cech signs autographs before he was later mobbed by fans in a Yokohama branch of Starbucks

Fan crazy: Petr Cech signs autographs before he was later mobbed by fans in a Yokohama branch of Starbucks

Fan fare: Paulo Ferreira was mobbed by Chelsea fans in Starbucks

Fan fare: Paulo Ferreira was mobbed by Chelsea fans in Starbucks

Picking up a small size coffee, Cech asked his team mate: ‘Do you want to drink here or go back (to the hotel)’

Closely watched by team security, the players patiently signed autographs and posed for photos with fans as they waited before Ferreira nervously replied: ‘Go back.’
Japanese fans were thrilled at the surprise visit by their idols.

'Brilliant!' 21-year-old student Shohei Tanimura said. ‘That was lucky. I only came in for a quick coffee. Cech was huge. He's even bigger than he looks on TV.’

Out on the town: Chelsea's Fernando Torres walking down the street and signs an autograph for a fan

Out on the town: Chelsea's Fernando Torres walking down the street and signs an autograph for a fan

Hello geezers: David Luiz signs autographs for fans who see him in Yokohama

Hello geezers: David Luiz signs autographs for fans who see him in Yokohama

Chelsea's jet-lagged players had just finished training ahead of Thursday's game.
The Premier League side, who last week became the first holders to exit the Champions League at the group stage, are under pressure to win the tournament in the Far East.

Chelsea are expected to meet Libertadores Cup holders Corinthians in the final on Sunday.

The Brazilian side play Egypt's Al-Ahly in Wednesday's first semi-final.

Chelsea fans moving on after Roberto Di Matteo – Petr Cech

Rafa's rising sons think big in Japan as upbeat Chelsea prepare to take on the world

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 10 December 2012

A big wheel flashes and spins in front of Chelsea's team hotel, a fairground attraction that lights up Yokohama harbour and dares to promise an upturn in fortunes for Rafa Benitez.

The defence of their European title may have gone badly but the club arrived in Japan in good spirits after two wins, with Fernando Torres smiling and among the goals and Benitez satisfied with progress after a rocky start to his interim stewardship.

As they prepared for their debut in FIFA's Club World Cup, there was even a hint from Petr Cech that supporters who fiercely opposed the change of manager last month may be moving on

Rafa Benitez

Chelsea

Ready to take on the world: Chelsea train on Monday under the guidance of Benitez (left)

'In the last two games, in the Champions League against Nordsjaelland and versus Sunderland, the support was very good,' said Cech.

'The atmosphere is getting better as the results and performances are getting better.

'You need results and better performances to get this pressure off the team and make the supporters happier. I think we are seeing it in a different way. We are on a good road now to changing that. The support we had at Sunderland was brilliant.'

Benitez, too, believes some of the minor tactical adjustments – tightening the defensive unit and compressing the team – are having the desired effect.

He talks continuously about the need to improve 'balance' between attack and defence but he has been thrilled with the reaction of Torres. The 50million Spain striker has scored four in two games, and the dark mood and sulky demeanour seem to be lifting as well.

He was the star attraction for Japanese fans yesterday as Chelsea trained before Thursday's game against Monterrey, of Mexico, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) champions.

'He is happy,' said Benitez. 'When a striker is scoring, he's happy. I have noticed the difference in him. Everybody has been talking for months, saying that Fernando has to score more goals, so to score four in a week, he must be pleased.'

Centre of attention: Torres remains a big sell in the Far East despite his suspect form at Chelsea

Centre of attention: Torres remains a big sell in the Far East despite his suspect form at Chelsea

In training: Chelsea will face Monterrey in their opening match on Thursday

In training: Chelsea will face Monterrey in their opening match on Thursday

Chelsea feel they start this tournament at a disadvantage, having arrived late in Japan, because the Premier League refused their request to move Saturday's game at Sunderland. As it was, they flew from Newcastle Airport to Japan, with a two-hour refuelling stop in Helsinki.

'I tried to force myself not to sleep on the plane,' said Cech. 'I had a nap to relax when we left Helsinki, but then I woke up and stayed awake. So I was tired enough and ready to go to bed. It's not easy when you lose nine hours. Your body is set in its ways.'

Nothing on Barcelona: Despite an enthusiastic welcome on Sunday interest in the Champions League winners has cooled

Nothing on Barcelona: Despite an enthusiastic welcome on Sunday interest in the Champions League winners has cooled

It does not sound like perfect preparation for an elite athlete entering a world title contest, but the culture is that English teams take this tournament a little less seriously than the rest of the world.

This attitude is reflected in Japan where, despite an enthusiastic welcome at the airport on Sunday night, the interest in Chelsea had thinned yesterday and the locals claimed it was nothing like as clamorous as the visit of Barcelona last year.

Outside Europe, the Club World Cup is viewed as a very prestigious crown. When Brazil's Corinthians clinched the Copa Libertadores, the South American version of the Champions League, all this week's direct flights to Tokyo from Brazil were fully booked within days.

All smiles: Torres has scored four goals in his last two appearances for Chelsea

All smiles: Torres has scored four goals in his last two appearances for Chelsea

Up to 20,000 Corinthians fans are expected in Japan for the game, compared to around a thousand Chelsea supporters. It helps that the tournament sits at the end of the Brazilian season, whereas for the English clubs, it is a distraction at a pivotal point in the domestic league campaign.

Corinthians and Chelsea are expected to be in Sunday's final, but both have been determined to look no further than their semi-finals.

For the Londoners, this means the Mexicans who beat Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea, after which Monterrey boss Victor Vucetich declared it was time to 'dance with the ugliest'.

It did not sound like a compliment but Benitez shrugged it off and said: 'Everybody thinks that the Premier League is high-tempo all the time, and maybe he was concerned about this.

'I watched them against Ulsan and maybe because they were better, they could play the passing game they like to play.'

Fernando Torres: I took up football because of Captain Tsubasa

Forget Pele, Maradona and Beckenbauer, meet the inspiration behind Torres' career… Japanese cartoon Captain Tsubasa

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UPDATED:

15:56 GMT, 10 December 2012

Fernando Torres has revealed that one of the reasons he took up football was down to a popular Japanese cartoon called Captain Tsubasa.

The Chelsea striker has recently discovered his goal-scoring form, netting four goals in his last two matches, and has travelled to Japan with the squad ahead of their first match in the Club World Cup.

Torres has revealed that it was in Japan where the seeds of his football career were sewn, though little did he know at the time.

Centre of attention: Torres is in Japan with Chelsea for the FIFA Club World Cup

Centre of attention: Torres is in Japan with Chelsea for the FIFA Club World Cup

The facts behind Captain Tsubasa

Captain Tsubasa, also known as Flash Kicker, is a popular long-running Japanese manga animation and video game series, originally created by Yoichi Takahashi in 1981.

The story focuses on the adventures of a Japanese youth soccer team and its football captain Tsubasa Oozora, whose name literally translates to ‘Big Sky Wings’.

The series is characterixed by dynamic football moves, often stylish and implausible.

Over to you, Rafa…

He said: 'I remember when I was a kid, we couldn't find the signal really well on TV, but everyone in school was talking about this cartoon about football, from Japan.

'It was a series called Oliver y Benji in Spain, and in Japan it was Captain Tsubasa, and these two young players started as youth team players, got into the national team, won the World Cup, and moved to Barcelona and Bayern Munich, then moved to Europe, so it was like a dream.

'I started playing football because of this, and because my brother forced me, and I loved the cartoon. I wanted to be Oliver, because he played out on the field and Benji was the goalkeeper. That was the first contact I had with Japan.'

Brace yourself: The Spaniard netted a double in the wins over Sunderland and Nordsjaelland

Brace yourself: The Spaniard netted a double in the wins over Sunderland and Nordsjaelland

Torres also defended the significance of the tournament, which is dismissed by many as a FIFA jolly and money-making exercise.

The 28-year-old told Chelsea's official website: 'How many people don't take this tournament seriously, or don't think it is like the real World Cup. It is for the clubs. You ask the South American people. David Luiz showed me a video of Corinthians fans at the airport, it was full of fans cheering the team and travelling to Japan to support, so it is important.

'In Europe maybe we don't give it as much attention, and to some people it might not mean much, but to me it does, so this is not a holiday or a break, this is a World Cup. It's nice to be involved, and maybe to be able to say you are a world champion. The European Super Cup was just as important to us and we lost, so we don't want that disappointment.'

Sandro interview and VIDEO: Spurs and Brazil ace strums along to Coldplay and enjoys darts with Bobby George!

EXCLUSIVE: At home with Sandro! He sings and strums along to Coldplay and enjoys darts and beers with Bobby George… when his Japanese fighting dog will allow it

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UPDATED:

22:39 GMT, 30 November 2012

Sandro sings!

To watch Tottenham's eccentric midfielder belting out cover versions of Coldplay and Black Eyed Peas numbers, scroll to the bottom of this article…

Sandro Raniere Guimaraes Cordeiro strums his guitar, leans back on his stool and sings into a gold microphone in a surprisingly pleasant tone. ‘Tonight’s gonna be a good night,’ he declares and, whatever the night might bring, it feels like it’s going to be an interesting interview.

Inside his relatively modest Essex home, Tottenham’s young Brazilian midfielder is going through the set list of an impromptu gig.

He begins by playing two colourful numbers from Brazilian duo Humberto and Ronaldo, then switches to the UK pop scene with Coldplay’s The Scientist before returning to that Black Eyed Peas number. ‘I Gotta Feeling,’ he reveals, even encouraging his five-man audience to join in. ‘Come on everybody,’ he says.

Lord of the strings: Sandro shows off his collection of guitars at his home in Chigwell, Essex

Lord of the strings: Sandro shows off his collection of guitars at his home in Chigwell, Essex

Out of his element but in his element; north-east London and plunging temperatures but also soulful sounds and a smile on his face. It does not take long to figure out this eccentric character has a lust for life.

It is not just music that he plays. He loves a game of darts. Once he wrestles free of his snap-happy pup Clique — a two-week old Japanese Akita named after a track by rapper Kanye West — he throws darts at the board he bought after discovering the sport on television. Believe it or not, that board has been pierced by missiles fired from the hand of Bobby George.

That’s right. Bobby George, former World Championship finalist from east London (age 66) and Sandro, Premier League footballer from a small town near Brasilia (age 23), have been known to enjoy a right old knees-up. The image breathes new life into The Odd Couple concept.

‘Really, really,’ says Sandro in English, sensing his interviewer’s scepticism. He mimes placing two bottles on his coffee table and adds: ‘I put the beers down. Bob George is funny. These days, only a little bit gold. But still…’

The King of Bling was introduced to Sandro by a mutual friend and the pair enjoyed an afternoon at George’s Essex mansion for the Premier League Show in April. A rather amusing video of Sandro being taught George’s classic putdown — ‘You want your mummy’ — was filmed and put online.

He slips into his native Portuguese to explain through a translator. ‘When I moved here I would watch darts on TV all the time,’ he says. ‘I saw the crowd, everybody cheering and thought, “It really looks like good fun”. I got a friend of mine to buy a board for me. I started getting better so my friend said, “I know this guy who used to be a professional and would really like to meet you”.

On the oche: The Brazilian midfielder is a keen darts player, and has had a game with Bobby George (below)

On the oche: The Brazilian midfielder is a keen darts player, and has had a game with Bobby George (below)

On the oche: The Brazilian midfielder is a keen darts player, and has had a game with Bobby George (below)

‘So we did the interview and I played his son Richard. Now we’ve become friends, he comes here, we play together. It’s great fun.’

He stands and arrows three darts from a distance of only five feet but finds his accuracy does not quite match that of his favourite, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. ‘All fours!’ he exclaims in mock angst.

He flops into a reclining leather chair and emits a deep chuckle. It is a noise which punctuates the next couple of hours.

The tears flow easily.

At 17, Sandro has spent two years living in a house on a hill nearly 900 miles away from home in pursuit of happiness. But he is lonely and sad. Numerous other teenage football hopefuls have become housemates but they are away on trials with professional clubs while he stays and trains in solitary.

Accommodated in Curitiba in the southern state of Parana by businessmen keen to unearth the next Brazilian diamond, Sandro is told by his agent he is being saved for a chance at a top club.

At 15 he had left the town of Planaltina in the nation’s centre for a trial at Atletico Paranaense but, as he says in English: ‘They closed the door in my face — two times!’ Months of toil followed and Sandro was feeling the strain.

Puppy love: Sandro with Clique, a two-week old Japanese Akita named after a track by rapper Kanye West

Puppy love: Sandro with Clique, a two-week old Japanese Akita named after a track by rapper Kanye West

‘It was the worst time of my life,’ he explains in Portuguese. ‘The businessmen had money to invest. This happens in Brazil, like a boy band in England. I was given basic training to bulk me up.

‘It was a small timber house on top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere, just isolated. There was a lady who would come once a day to cook my lunch, leave my dinner and clean a little bit. I would see all these boys coming and going and I would stay in this house.’ He shouts in English: ‘/11/30/article-2241197-1642BC3C000005DC-125_634x416.jpg” width=”634″ height=”416″ alt=”Brazilian flair, English graft: Sandro says he always considered himself suited to the Premier League” class=”blkBorder” />

Brazilian flair, English graft: Sandro says he always considered himself suited to the Premier League

It turns out the agent was telling the truth. A trial with league side Londrina led to a match at which scouts from Internacional spotted his talent. They whisked him away from the house on the hill.

His father Joaci was a bricklayer, his mother Rosangela was a housekeeper. They often left him and his elder brother Saymon to care for themselves while they worked long hours for little money.

‘Like every boy in Brazil we played in the streets,’ says Sandro. ‘We would make a ball with anything — you know, little socks or a can, and play mostly bare-footed.

‘Sometimes we would find wasteland, pull the weeds out and play there. But that wasn’t good, either. When I came home from playing, the top of my toes would be completely red raw.’

In English he chimes: ‘So bad! Look mum, look!’ He points to his feet which are now tucked inside Converse sneakers.

‘But you know, we would never give up because it was a passion. I remember other boys who had better financial conditions and their own football boots. Any little tear and they would throw the boots away. I would jump to get them. “Oh my god this guy is mad,” they thought. But I would get back home, stitch them and use them.

Growing influence: Sandro joined Spurs from Brazilian side Internacional in August 2010

Growing influence: Sandro joined Spurs from Brazilian side Internacional in August 2010

‘It’s funny. Now that I can afford it I bought a house for my mother in the gated community where she used to work.’

The Barclays Premier League is a big deal in Brazil. It has been broadcast for years in the country, so when Sandro was told Tottenham were interested in him at the South American Under 20 Championship of 2009 he knew the scale of the news.

After he captained his nation to the title he returned to Internacional, who were about to embark on a successful challenge in the Copa Libertadores tournament — the Champions League of Latin America.

‘Tottenham came to see me play and they started negotiations which took one year,’ he says.

‘When I signed for Tottenham (in March 2010) it was about halfway through the Libertadores campaign and when I went back to Inter all the fans thought I wouldn’t do anything for them.

‘But after what Inter did for me I would never do that. I tried to dedicate myself even more because I knew how important it would be to win that competition. The fans appreciated that. My farewell to Inter was to win the Libertadores.

‘Every single Brazilian player dreams of playing in Europe. When you hear one of the big teams is interested you just get your suitcase. Actually, I prefer to play in England because I always thought the English style of football would suit me better.’

After a quiet start to life at White Hart Lane, he was thrown into a Champions League tie in the San Siro against AC Milan and starred — shackling Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Spurs pulled off an unlikely 1-0 win. ‘I think that’s when the Tottenham supporters really saw me.’

He says he was not surprised by Harry Redknapp’s departure at the end of last season because in Brazil changes in management are commonplace. The appointment of Andre Villas-Boas has helped Sandro find his voice.

‘Harry brought me over, so I’m going to appreciate him,’ he says. ‘Of course I was sad to see him leave but to me it wasn’t very strange, that’s what I’m used to.

‘With Harry, I didn’t speak much because of the language barrier. But with Andre it is totally different. You can see when we are on the pitch I go to the bench to talk to him. I like to give my opinion.

‘I am always aware what is going on during the game. I can see gaps here or somebody’s doing something wrong there, so now I feel more confident. I want to be involved. My English is improving so I can be more vocal, tell the players off.’

He demonstrates: ‘Come, go back, don’t do it! Not bossy because in Portuguese that has very negative connotations. I’m new to the club, I’m young, so I respect the hierarchy. I don’t go over the senior players.’

He laughs and says in English: ‘You can imagine, Brad Friedel…’

Blue-tiful: Sandro shows off an eccentric hairstyle on the pitch last September

Blue-tiful: Sandro shows off an eccentric hairstyle on the pitch last September

This season began well as he formed an impressive partnership with Mousa Dembele but a dip while the Belgian was out saw Spurs slide down the table. They have won the last two, though, and Sandro is positive ahead of the trip to Fulham.

‘In my view, I always play to win the title,’ he says before adding: ‘We have to finish within the top four. Top four would be a good season.’

With that he seizes the Dictaphone and threatens to delete the entire recording, a big grin on his face. Thankfully, he does not follow through, instead grabbing his guitar and plucking the strings once more.

His cousin has arrived to cook a meal and the scent of warming beef stew wafts from the kitchen. The fluffy ball that is Clique bites away at any exposed limbs.

Sandro is hungry, too, but not so hungry that he neglects to offer a tour of his home. The living room, his sanctuary, contains a drum kit and flatscreen television and is decorated with pictures from his life. A Brazil flag is pinned up behind a small plastic Christmas tree.

Upstairs are sparsely-decorated spare bedrooms which friends and family use when over. Once in his room he rushes to the corner. He pauses for dramatic effect then switches on a favourite item; stars project onto the ceiling. He jokes that it woos the ladies, tongue firmly in cheek.

As a gimmick the sight is not bad. As a metaphor for the aspirations of Sandro the showman, it is better.

VIDEO: SANDRO SINGS COLDPLAY AND THE BLACK EYED PEAS!

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Korean Grand Prix: Jenson Button slams Kamui Kobayashi

What an idiot! After 'first-lap nutcase' row, Button turns fury on Japanese driver

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UPDATED:

21:12 GMT, 14 October 2012

Jenson Button launched a stinging attack on Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, branding him an ‘idiot’ after being forced out of the Korean Grand Prix on the opening lap.

Future McLaren team-mate Sergio Perez did not escape cricitism either after he also shunted Button although it was Japan’s Kobayashi — whom the British driver nicknamed ‘Kobacrashi’ — who bore the brunt of the fury.

‘It seems both Sauber drivers think the first lap of the race is the only lap,’ Button said as he conceded his slim title chance was finally over. ‘They have got a great car underneath them and could score such great points here if they just kept their heads together. I don’t know what they were doing.’

Crash: Kamui Kobayashi collides with Jenson Button in Korea

Crash: Kamui Kobayashi collides with Jenson Button in Korea

On a day when Sebastian Vettel registered his third win in a row, Button could not contain his anger at Kobayashi’s rush of blood.

Thumped on the right rear, Kobayashi then wrecked Button’s right front suspension as he tried a late breaking manoeuvre between the McLaren and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. The German’s afternoon ended on the first lap like in Japan last weekend.

Button raged into his radio after slewing off at turn three: ‘Hit by Kobayashi, what an idiot.’

Even back at the garage Button’s anger had not abated. ‘Going down the back straight, I was having a good drag race with Nico. Then suddenly I felt a big bang on the right hand side and Kamui flying past,’ said Button who had started from 11th.

‘It is pretty poor driving standards considering this is the pinnacle of motorsport and it is such a long race. The race is not two corners long and some people need to learn that.’

End of the road: Button was forced into an early retirement in Korea

End of the road: Button was forced into an early retirement in Korea

Kobayashi was handed a drive-through penalty by the stewards and, after retiring himself on lap 17, took full responsibility for his error.But two hours after the race, Button still could not resist a dig. ‘Kobacrashi, sorry Kobayashi, said on Twitter that he was very sorry that he caused the incident which is very nice,’ he jibed before accepting the apology.

‘The first thing is to say sorry. Then you forgive them and move on. You just hope that you limit the chances of it happening again. With Perez, I think he locked up and ran really deep into the corner and I suppose lost control. I think he misjudged it.’

After Button’s race ended early, out-going team-mate Lewis Hamilton put on a masterclass to limp home in 10th place. Battling from lap 18, his car handling atrociously following a rear anti-roll bar failure, Hamilton could have been forgiven for calling it a day.

His cause was not helped by a piece of Astroturf which became lodged in a sidepod later on as he tried to claw his way through the field following a third pit stop.

Good effort: Lewis Hamilton battled hard to finish 10th in Korea

Good effort: Lewis Hamilton battled hard to finish 10th in Korea

But McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was genuinely taken aback by Hamilton’s determination to bring his car home — a performance which surely ended any speculation he would not give his all for his current team despite the Mercedes move.

‘We have just got one of the hardest won single points this team has had for many years,’ said Whitmarsh. ‘Lewis did a fantastic job. The amount of sheer determination to get one point was superb.’

Such qualities will be required by Hamilton at Mercedes next year given their continued lack of competitiveness. Michael Schumacher finished a lowly 13th.

‘It was a pure struggle with the car and in your mind,’ said Hamilton. ‘I feel pretty good because I remained strong throughout that struggle.’

Korean Grand Prix