Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Club World Cup: A History

FC Barcelona FIFA Club World Cup

FC Barcelona won the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009

The FIFA Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi on Saturday sees European champions Internazionale of Milan face up to their history-making African counterparts TP Mazembe from the Congolese second city of Lubumbashi. Since coming under outright official FIFA control in 2005, the Club World Cup includes all of the seven continental champions fighting it out to become officially the world’s best club side. However for many years the notion of a world club tournament was confined only to the champions of Europe and South America with the tournament having taken plenty of knocks before becoming the respected competition that it is today. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks back at the history of an often controversial, yet thrilling tournament.

The tournament began in 1960 following an invitation to the inaugural Copa Libertadores champions Peñarol to play against European champions Real Madrid, who had just sealed their fifth consecutive win in the European Champions Cup in what was dubbed the “Match of the Century” against Eintracht Frankfurt. The Spanish giants showed their Uruguayan opponents who was boss as los Blancos, following a goalless draw in Montevideo, duly swept Peñarol aside 5-1 to become the first world champions. At least Peñarol would have the chance to get revenge six years later when the two sides met again with the Uruguayans coming out on top having won both home and away with a 2-0 scoreline. Inbetween those games Brazilian side Santos FC, including a certain player by the name of Pelé, and Italians Internazionale FC went on to win back-to-back triumphs in a competition which was starting to gain much importance to those who took part.

Racing Club v Celtic

Racing Club play Celtic in 1967

So much so that the event began to gain an ugly side as the late 1960s approached with Estudiantes de La Plata the worst offenders as they were involved in brutal matches against Manchester United (1968), AC Milan (1969) and Feyenoord Rotterdam (1970). Their violent approach won them no friends but it at least won them the trophy in that first final against United. Following those encounters the event would suffer due to future European champion teams refusing to enter the competition with a succession of runners-up having to take their place. Ajax Amsterdam, who won the European Champions’ Cup from 1971-73, only entered the 1972 event which they won against Independiente, leaving it up to Panathinaikos and Juventus FC to represent Europe in 1971 and 1973 respectively (both of whom lost). The only club to win the Intercontinental Cup without winning their continental title is Atlético de Madrid who, having lost to FC Bayern München in the 1974 European Cup final, took the Bavarians’ place against Independiente that year and won 2-1 on aggregate. The event continued to suffer in the late 1970s with no competition being played at all in the years of 1975 and 1978 whilst in the remaining years only FC Bayern would represent Europe as its champion in 1976 when they defeated Cruzeiro 2-0 on aggregate. The last two finals of the decade saw Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977) and Malmö FF (1979) take part as losing European finalists replacing English clubs Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest respectively, both of whom refused to play due to scheduling problems. Perhaps this was why those two finals were the last ones to be played in a two-legged format. They also represented a power shift towards the South Americans.

FC Porto

FC Porto won their first title in 1987

Following success for Boca Juniors (1977) and Olimpia Asuncion (1979) the tournament became sponsored by the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota and became known as the Toyota Cup in a single match format played in Tokyo with appearance money helping to encourage all future European champions’ participation. But the success kept coming for South America who secured their best run in this tournament with seven consecutive wins from 1977-84 with the likes of Nacional, Peñarol, Flamengo, Grêmio and Independiente getting their hands on the trophy. The biggest losers at this time were the English who lost out in four of those seven finals including Liverpool who were lost out twice in this competition. Juventus stemmed the tide in 1985 beating Argentinos Juniors in the first final to be decided by a penalty shoot-out but River Plate would win it again for South America twelve months later with a 1-0 win over surprise European champions Steaua Bucharest. FC Porto and Nacional traded wins in 1987 and 1988 before Europe would begin to restore some pride with three wins going into the 1990s. AC Milan won consecutive trophies in 1989-90 while Crvena Zvezda ended a successful 1991 with an easy 3-0 win over Colo Colo. The next three years saw a swift return back to South American dominance with Sao Paulo claiming back-to-back titles over FC Barcelona and AC Milan in 1992-93 followed by another defeat for the Italians against Argentinians Velez Sarsfield in 1994.

The Europeans would go on to enjoy the lions share of success in the last decade of the Toyota Cup winning eight of the last ten matches under the one-off match format. Only Boca Juniors tasted success for the CONMEBOL confederation between 1995-2004 with no fewer than seven different clubs lifting the trophy for Europe, Real Madrid CF being the only team amongst them to lift the trophy twice in this period. Following FC Porto’s second triumph in 2004 the competition was finally discontinued as FIFA had finally managed to follow up on its inaugural Club World Championship of 2000 – a competition won by Corinthians against compatriots Vasco da Gama in arguably the most boring cup final ever played – and had opened the tournament to winners of the various continental federations to create a truly global competition.

Since the FIFA Club World Cup, as the tournament is presently known, began in 2005 the honours have been evenly shared between Europe and South America. Sao Paulo became world champions for a third time in that year following a tightly fought final against the unfortunate Liverpool FC who lost for a third time in their history. Internacional kept up Brazilian success in 2006 with a narrow 1-0 over FC Barcelona but the Europeans have won the next three competitions with wins for AC Milan (who are the record winners of this tournament in any guise with four victories), Manchester United and for the present holders FC Barcelona who, after three attempts, finally got their hands on the trophy having come from behind to beat Estudiantes de La Plata in last year’s final.

The 2010 FIFA Club World Cup will see a team from outside Europe and South America compete in the final for the very first time. TP Mazembe, four times champions of Africa, upset the odds in beating South American champions SC Internacional in the semi-finals and will meet UEFA Champions League winners Internazionale FC tomorrow. The Italians are favourites to win the tournament for a third time, forty-five years after their last success, but TP Mazembe are a side who are good at counter attacking and will hope to keep the Nerazzurri at bay for long periods. All in all a fascinating clash of styles awaits and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks forward to a history-making final.


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