FIFA: Club World Cup 2010 Preview
For the second year running the FIFA Club World Cup will be held in the United Arab Emirates and it looks like being yet another thrilling competition. Last year saw 2008-09 UEFA Champions League holders FC Barcelona narrowly edge out 2009 Copa Libertadores winners Estudiantes de La Plata with the Catalans needing extra-time to defeat their illustrious Argentinian opponents. This year it is expected that this truly “international” tournament will prove to be so with 2009-10 UEFA Champions League winners FC Internazionale Milano face off against their South American counterparts Internacional of Porto Alegre. But there are five other teams who hope to have their shot of glory and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks at all seven contenders.
INTERNAZIONALE FC – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10
The José Mourinho era may be over but Internazionale FC still go into this tournament as favourites despite some initial teething problems under new coach Rafael Benítez. Inter haven’t been crowned world champions since 1965 when they defeated Argentinian side Independiente in the old Intercontinental Cup and the Nerazzurri are desperate to add the new trophy to their list of achievements. Internazionale became European champions for the third time in their history having beaten German giants FC Bayern München 2-0 in Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, ironically where their former coach now works. Their current coach Benítez has been in the final of this tournament once before but saw his Liverpool FC side lose to a Brazilian side in the final. Will history repeat itself for the Spaniard? Inter first have to dispose any of Hekari United, Al-Wahda or Seongnam Ilhwa Chuma at the last four stage before they can think of the final.
INTERNACIONAL SC – COPA LIBERTADORES WINNERS 2010
The last South American team to win this trophy, Internacional are hoping to create history by becoming the first team to win the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time since the tournament was re-branded in 2004. Their first triumph in this competition came in 2006 in Tokyo where they defeated an FC Barcelona side who were expected to turn up and win the trophy but Inter had other ideas and Adriano Gabiru’s 82nd minute strike remains the club’s finest moment. Internacional would’ve qualified for this year’s tournament even had they have lost the Copa Libertadores final to Mexican side C.D. Guadalajara but a 5-3 aggregate victory for the Porto Alegre based side means that they travel to the UAE with the champion status they deserve. Internacional will face the winners of TP Mazembe and CF Pachuca in the semi-finals.
CF PACHUCA – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10
The champions of North and Central America are competing in this tournament for the third time which is a competition best along with Egyptians Al Ahly. Pachuca’s two previous appearances saw them exit at the quarter-final stage in 2007 before losing to Gamba Osaka in a 3rd/4th place play-off twelve months later. The Mexicans saw off the challenge from compatriots Cruz Azul in the two-legged CONCACAF Champions League final winning courtesy of the away goals rule. Following a 2-1 away defeat, Pachuca were only seconds away from disappointment as the second leg reached its dying moments. However Édgar Benítez’s last gasp goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave Pachuca their fourth continental title and another shot of glory at the world stage. They will face off against African champions TP Mazembe in the quarter-finals.
TP MAZEMBE – CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2010
The Congolese side are back-to-back African champions and undoubtedly the strongest team on the African continental at the moment. Tout Puissant Mazembe, to give their official name, have come back to prominence in the last couple of years and have put four decades without the top African trophy firmly behind them. Following what was an unexpected CAF Champions League win in 2009 TP Mazembe proved their critics wrong by thrashing Tunisian champions Espérance Tunis 6-1 on aggregate and will hope to better their performance in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 where they failed to beat Asian champions Pohang Steelers and OFC Champions Auckland City. Coach Lamine N’Diaye has to negotiate his team’s way through the quarter-finals against CONCACAF champions CF Pachuca before they can meet Internacional SC in the last four stage.
SEONGNAM ILHWA CHUNMA – AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2010
The South Koreans may not have won a domestic trophy in four years but that didn’t prevent them from winning Asian football’s elite club competition this year. Coming from the city of Seongnam, this team qualified for the 2010 AFC Champions League as losing finalists from the 2009 K-League final which they lost to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup having defeated Iranian side Zob Ahan Isfahan in the AFC Champions League winning 3-1 in the National Stadium, Tokyo. Their reward is to play against the winners of the qualifying match between Ocenaia champions Hekari United and UAE League champions Al-Wahda in the quarter-finals. Should they be successful in their opening match a semi-final against European champions Internazionale FC awaits.
PKR HEKARI UNITED – OFC O-LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2009-10
The rise of Papua New Guinea’s biggest club has been something of a fairytale in world football’s smallest confederation. Having only picked up just one point from their opening two group matches in the 2009-10 O-League, Hekari United then won all of their four remaining games against group opponents Lautoka FC, Tafea FC and Marist FC before going on to meet strong favourites Waitakere United in the final. The New Zealanders, twice O-League champions in the previous three years, came unstuck in the first leg in Port Moresby losing 3-0 before going on to gain some pride with a 2-1 second leg win. The 4-2 aggregate victory for Hekari signalled the first time that a club from outside Australia or New Zealand had won Oceania’s top tournament and rewards them with a qualifying match against UAE champions Al-Wahda which they’ll hope to win in order to meet Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.
AL-WAHDA – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES PREMIER LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10
In order to gain some local interest FIFA has decided to include the national champions of the host nation in the last four tournaments. The middle eastern state of the United Arab Emirates hosts this tournament for a second consecutive year and it is 2009-10 Premier League champions Al-Wahda who will hope to do their country proud. Al-Wahda qualified for the tournament after winning their national championship by seven points from nearest challengers Al Jazira and they will hope to better the performance of last year’s representatives Al-Ahli who lost 2-0 to OFC Champions League winners Auckland City in the play-off round. Should Al-Wahda defeat Hekari United in this year’s play-off they will face off against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the quarter-finals.