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By ESPN Staff

Japanese blizzard freezes Thai training plans

TOKYO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Thailand's soccer players, normally accustomed to tropical heat, awoke to blizzard-like conditions on Sunday after arriving in Japan for a World Cup qualifier.

The Thais touched down in Tokyo late on Saturday with temperatures rapidly dropping and overnight, the Japanese capital had been covered in a thick blanket of snow.

'There was a blizzard. There's snow on the ground so we're training indoors,' team manager Kittirat Na Ranong told Reuters ahead of Wednesday's 2010 World Cup qualifier in Saitama.

'It's definitely not what we're used to back home but we've been training in Manchester the past two and a half weeks. It is very cold and wet there so we're well prepared.

'We've had the best physical and mental preparation. We're confident of a good performance here.'

Hosts Japan were also forced to train indoors to beat the freeze with forwards Naohiro Takahara, Seiichiro Maki and Yoshito Okubo all taking part despite carrying knocks.

'We wanted to train outside but it was impossible,' smiled Japan midfielder Yasuyuki Konno. 'It's the same situation for our opponents too so we have to make the best of it.'

Thailand's national side arrived in Japan after a training camp at English Premier League club Manchester City and a 2-0 win over South Korea's Chonbuk Motors in a warm-up game.

Thai newspapers for days carried pictures of the players shivering in Manchester, wrapped up in multiple layers and wearing woolly hats, tights and gloves.

City's billionaire Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra picked up the tab for the team to train in Manchester ahead of Wednesday's game.

But it was even colder in Japan on Sunday with temperatures plunging below zero and heavy snow bringing sporting events to a halt across the country.

'Japan are Asia's top team,' Thailand boss Charnwit Polcheewin told reporters upon the team's arrival. 'It will be a very difficult game. We're the away side so we'll be aiming to take a point.'

Bahrain and Oman are the other two teams involved in Group Two in the third round of Asian qualifying.