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Lionel MessiJapan want WC players to use oxygen tanks

»Japan coach Takeshi Okada has ordered his players to use oxgyen tanks ahead of the World Cup to build up their high-altitude resistance.

Local media reported that Okada, whose team play two of their Group E games at more than 1,000 metres above sea level in South Africa in June, would ask his players to use the aparatus daily.

"After the squad is named I will get the players to use oxygen masks in small doses for an hour a day," Okada told the Nikkan Sports. "They can use the tanks while watching TV."

Japan face World Cup-bound South Korea at home on May 24 before flying to Europe for warm-up matches against England in Austria on May 30 and Ivory Coast in Switzerland on June 4.

The Blue Samurai, who have never won a game at a World Cup tournament on foreign soil, have been drawn against Cameroon, Netherlands and Denmark in Group E.

Paragayans question Argentine-born players

»Paraguay's Argentine coach Gerardo Martino is unrepentant over his penchant for picking naturalised compatriots for the team he is preparing for the World Cup finals.
Buenos Aires-born striker Lucas Barrios is the latest to take Paraguayan citizenship through his mother, with Martino suggesting the Borussia Dortmund player could be in his World Cup squad for the June 11-July 11 finals in South Africa.

Paraguayans have questioned Martino's use of players born in neighbouring Argentina, though the coach was adamant he would continue the policy.

"It doesn't seem logical to me to miss out on an important player," Martino told the Cardinal radio station in Asuncion on Tuesday. "The people will hang me for losing, not for nationalising (players)."

Midfielders Jonathan Santana and Nestor Ortigoza have played for the team and Jonathan Fabbro of local side Guarani has also taken Paraguayan nationality.

Quarrymen profit from rich seam of Barca talent

»A Spanish soccer club's youth programme is known as the "cantera", or quarry, and Barcelona's current dominance of Real Madrid highlights how the Catalans have mined theirs much more efficiently than their arch rivals.

Seven of the Barca players who started in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Real at the Bernabeu, a record fourth straight win for coach and former quarryman Pep Guardiola in "El Clasico", came through the club's youth system, including Argentine maestro Lionel Messi, Spain midfielder Xavi and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Guardiola joined the cantera in 1984 at the age of 13 and has used 16 of his fellow "canteranos" this season, compared to Real's seven, according to figures published in As sports daily on Tuesday.

Those 16 Barca players, including captain Carles Puyol, centre back Gerard Pique, midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets and forward Pedro, account for 60.2 percent of the total minutes played in all competitions this campaign, As said.
Real's seven, which includes former Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa, midfielders Guti
and Esteban Granero and striker Raul, account for 26.4 percent.

S African soccer grannies train for glory

»As the World Cup approaches, South Africa's soccer grannies are working to fulfil their own dream -- competing for glory in America.

The 35 women, aged 50 to 84, play for a team called Vakhegula Vakhegula or Grannies, Grannies in the Xitsonga language of northern South Africa.

The team was founded by community worker Beka Ntsanwisi five years ago to help the older women keep fit and flexible, but the project has been so successful they have set their sights on a trip to the Veterans Cup competition in Lancaster, Michigan.

"We have been invited to play in America from July 13-18 for the Veterans Cup, where the grannies come together and play soccer. Not only grannies but everybody who is old. So my problem now, the challenge that I have, is that I do not have enough money," Ntsanwisi told Reuters.