Global Goals: FIFA Club World Cup



Global Goals: The FIFA Club World Cup Story

In the world of football, the month of December has come to signify the return of the FIFA Club World Cup, with the 2016 final to be played on Japanese soil this weekend. The finale of a ten-day competition, Sunday sees UEFA Champions League holders Real Madrid and J-League champions Kashima Antlers contest the trophy in Yokohama. But before the final final of the calendar year, revisits each of the tournament’s past 12 incarnations.


Pilot wins

Played on the fifth day of the new millennium, the first ever match in the then-Club World Championship saw Real Madrid record a 3-1 victory over Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr, with Nicolas Anelka claiming the distinction of becoming the tournament’s first goalscorer. Al-Nassr would be involved in a 4-3 win over Morocco’s Raja Casablanca later in the group, but neither would progress to the Maracana final, with Madrid themselves edged out by Brazil’s own Corinthians via goal difference, after the clubs contested a 2-2 draw in Sao Paulo.

The second of the tournament’s groups of four saw Manchester United enter the fray, the Premier League champions participating at the apparent behest of the UK government, after controversially withdrawing from that season’s FA Cup. In a difficult opener with Mexico’s Club Necaxa, Dwight Yorke’s equaliser would salvage a late draw, yet United would crumble to a 3-1 defeat against Vasco da Gama in their subsequent outing two days later; Romario and Edmundo rippling the net for the Brazilians. A 2-0 win over South Melbourne proved scant consolation for Alex Ferguson’s men, as Vasco came from behind to beat Nexaca 2-1 and set up an all-Brazilian finale at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic national stadium.

Ultimately, the first Club World Championship final on January 14th 2000 proved to be a disappointing affair, with 120 minutes of play failing to break the deadlock. In the end, it would be Colombian star Freddy Rincon, the sole non-Brazilian of the 28 players to feature, who would lift the newly-created trophy; dispatching the first of Corinthians’ four successful penalties in the game’s climactic shoot-out, while Gilberto and Edmundo failed to convert.

The revival

Following an absence of almost five years, the Club World Championship name would be revived in 2005, taking the place of the previously-existing Intercontinental Cup. On this occasion, former FIFA World Cup co-hosts Japan would serve as the tournament’s home nation, while the competition adopted a new six-team, seven-game knock-out format that saw travelling heavyweights Liverpool and Sao Paulo not enter until the semi-final stage.

With their storybook UEFA Champions League victory over AC Milan securing their berth in the tournament, Rafa Benitez’s Reds were comfortable 3-0 victors over Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa, with Peter Crouch scoring twice to sandwich a trademark Steven Gerrard volley.

In the other semi-final, Sao Paulo had to graft to see off Saudi outfit Al Ittihad; the South Americans eventually prevailing by three goals to two. Nevertheless, the global honours were destined to return to Brazilian shores, with Minero’s first-half effort in the December 18th final enough to defeat Liverpool, in front of a Yokohama crowd of almost 67,000.

The following year season rivals Internacional make it a hat-trick of Brazilian championships, beating Barcelona by the same 1-0 scoreline, at the very same stadium to boot. Proving themselves masters of the format, Brazilian representation would cease for the 2007 edition; ensuring that representatives of a brand new nation would see their name on the trophy.

European champions

2007 ushered in a five-year period of European dominance in the renamed Club World Cup, with Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan the first to break the streak of South American success. Held in Japan for the third successive season, Milan arrived in Asia with a wealth of Italian football royalty in their ranks, from Gennaro Gattuso to Andrea Pirlo. However, it was Dutchman Clarence Seedorf who decided their semi-final with the host nation’s Urawa Red Diamonds, scoring the game’s only goal in the 68th minute. Then, in the final with Boca Juniors, efforts from Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta and Kaka secured an entertaining 4-2 triumph.

In 2008, reigning European champions Manchester United avenged their millennial misadventures by becoming the first ever English team to capture the Club World Cup. Tackling Japan’s own Gamba Osaka in an exciting, eight-goal semi-final, Nemanja Vidic, Cristiano Ronaldo and Darren Fletcher all made the scoresheet, while Wayne Rooney used the occasion to surpass Old Trafford icon David Beckham on the club’s all-time goals list. Three days later, Rooney then cemented his place as the 2008 tournament’s top marksman, netting the 73rd-minute winner that helped United to a 1-0 victory over Ecuador’s LDU Quito. It would be the third time in four years that the final would be decided by a single goal.

12 months later, the competition crossed over to the United Arab Emirates for the first of two successive seasons, with the entire seven-team tournament contested over two venues in the capital of Abu Dhabi. As has largely become customary, both teams entering at the semi-final stage would advance to the one-off final, with Barcelona overturning a goal deficit to beat Mexico’s Atlante 3-1, before repeating the feat to topple Argentinian adventurers Estudiantes; a 22-year old Lionel Messi with the extra-time winner against his countrymen.

Then, in 2010, it was Inter Milan’s turn to add their name to the Club World Cup’s roll of honour. Opening their account in the expanded tournament with an emphatic 3-0 win over South Korea’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, the Serie A side remained equally ruthless in the final; casting aside Congolese club TP Mazembe by another 3-0 scoreline to become the first champions to not concede a single goal. A fine feather in their cap, Inter would not however be the last to achieve this; in fact, the feat would be repeated the following year.

Returning to Japan for the fifth time, 2011 saw Barcelona become the competition’s inaugural two-time champions; the Catalans beating Brazil’s Santos 4-0 with goals from Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Messi (2), after hitting four without reply against Al-Sadd days earlier. Oddly, Europe’s most conclusive success would be the last of its run of five consecutive titles; with Corinthians reclaiming their crown in 2012 (pictured) after a 1-0 triumph over UCL champions Chelsea. 2012 was additionally notable for the introduction of goal-line technology, with the Club World Cup the first major FIFA tournament to adopt the system.


Season’s beatings

The 2013 edition saw Morocco become the fourth and final nation to host a FIFA Club World Cup, with Moroccan outfit Raja Casablanca putting together perhaps the competition’s greatest single run to date. Progressing through a play-off against Auckland City, Casablanca would subsequently edge out Liga MX’s Monterray in a quarter-final upset, with Ivorian Kouko Guehi heading home five minutes into extra-time, sealing their semi-final berth. Casablanca’s form continued in the final four, with a capacity crowd in Marrakesh seeing the Green Eagles sensationally slam Atlético Mineiro 3-1; Ronaldinho bagging the consolation for the Brazilian side. Unfortunately though, Raja’s charge to the trophy would be met by a Bayern Munich-shaped roadblock; the Bundesliga giants winning their December final 2-0, after three goals in seven minutes had snuffed out the challenge of Chinese entrants Guangzhou Evergrande.

Morocco would host again in 2014, yet on this occasion, home interest would end at the play-off stage, as Moghreb Tétouan were beaten by Aucklund on penalties. In what might have been the longest knock-out edition of tournament yet, extra-time would prove a factor in five of the eight cup matches, with Algeria’s ES Sétif, Mexico’s Cruz Azul and Argentina’s San Lorenzo all prevailing in dramatic fashion, before Auckland secured third place with another shoot-out victory. However, the tournament would belong to Real Madrid, who coasted to a pair of wins and clean sheets, inspired by the braces of Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos.

Finally, 12 months ago saw a return to the Land of the Rising Sun, with Luis Suarez netting five times in two appearances to clinch the Club World Cup for European club champions Barcelona. Unsurprisingly, Suarez would collect the tournament’s Golden Ball to boot; Nou Camp teammates Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta rewarded with Silver and Bronze honours respectively, as the club achieved a record-breaking third FIFA Club World Cup.

Blancos and Antlers

After stoppage-time efforts in either half helped Real Madrid past Club America, Zinedine Zidane’s team will enter the 2016 final as overwhelming favourites to claim their second Club World Cup, with only a brave man willing to bet against los Blancos capping a memorable year with a final piece of silverware. Nevertheless, opponents Kashima Antlers have certainly earned their place on the showpiece stage; the J-League winners scoring five times across the tournament, disposing of Auckland City, Mamelodi Sundowns and Atlético Nacional along the way. Among their noted players, strikers Yasushi Endo and Mu Kanazaki have each netted twice apiece in the current campaign, while veteran skipper Mitsuo Ogasawa will look to make perhaps his last big stand on the global stage, having been capped for Japan at both the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups. Despite Real’s near-peerless pedigree and wealth of superstar talent on tap, the Yokohama crowd could meanwhile be an x-factor in the Antlers’ pursuit of glory, with the Kashima club based a mere 80 miles away. In the year of Iceland, Leicester and Wales, could 2016 shuffle offstage with an underdog rising again? AC

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