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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
World Cup diary: Japan
Japan's Philippe Troussier is the most-hugged coach of the 2002 World Cup
The craze for hugging football coaches sweeps Japan

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The World Cup's unpredictability is turning the Korea and Japan showpiece into one of the most memorable - but it could be renamed the World RoboCup in 50 years time.

Hiroaki Kitano, the Japanese senior researcher at Sony Computer Intelligence and chairman of the RoboCup Federation, is a man on a mission.

The Robots XI have a 50-year-plan to become world champions
The robots were accused of playing like humans
He organises a competition in which teams of robots face each other - and he has his computer sights set on the World Cup holders of the future.

Kitano said: "In 2050 we plan to have a soccer team full of autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world champions."

He added: "Even if the robot team wins over the human world champions, it does not mean the human kind will have been defeated.

"It will mean a victory for long years of effort and research."

This is all very well - but after all the shocks, you suspect that even the microchip robots might have fused in this World Cup.


Heroes' reception

The exhausted English media party returned in glorious triumph to the skyscraper hotel in Kobe that is their World Cup base after the 3-0 win against Denmark.

Even the English media have been cheered by the Japanese
"One English press corps, there's only one..."
As we left the coach after the early morning flight and coach journey from Niigata, where England beat the Danes, an unusual scene was played out.

Hotel staff gathered outside the foyer to ecstatically applaud the media men off the coach, complete with clenched-fist salutes and cheers.

The celebrations were embellished with an impromptu banner of the cross of St George emblazoned with the word "Winners", which was also on display.

This presumably means angry porters and disgruntled bellboys will pelt us with rotten eggs and abuse should England fail to win the World Cup.


Fancy a snog, Sven?

Japan coach Philippe Troussier has occasionally had an uneasy relationship with the country's powers-that-be - but not any more.

The country's media has started a love affair with the French coach, who is tipped to land a major club post after the end of a World Cup in which Japan have arrived as a true force.

Troussier's popularity reached new heights after the 2-0 win against Tunisia sent Japan into the last 16.

A Japanese journalist asked Troussier in his post-match press conference: "Can I give you a hug?"

Troussier responded by opening his arms wide and agreeing to the request, proving the French continue to lead the way when it comes to romance.

Throw the scene forward two weeks and the sight of Sven-Goran Eriksson conducting his victory conference in Yokohama after the World Cup Final.

It is difficult to imagine the battle-weary English media lining up to snog Sven out of sheer gratitude for his achievements.

Indeed, when confronted by a group of men who have been away from their loved ones for five weeks - and in some cases even longer - it may turn into a potentially hazardous occupation for Eriksson.


The hair-dryer treatment - Japan style

Japan's obsession with littering hotels with hair products has already been detailed here - from putting vile smelling "Hair Tonic" in your room to the slightly unusual provision of a complimentary headband.

Japanese hotels ban the misuse of angry Alex Fergusons
"Hair-dryers must only be used for drying hair"
The headband is presumably for those tempted into the gym, or others who wish to while away the dark hours impersonating Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler at his 'Brothers In Arms' peak.

But the hair obsession now contains a note of caution.

The sign next to the bathroom hair-dryer reads: "Please do not use the hair-dryer for any other purpose than for drying your hair."

Answers on a postcard please.


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