Forget Christmas or New Yearsâ€™ day, today was the day for Corinthians fans as their team stepped onto the field in Japan hoping to bring home the World Club Cup for a second time (they won the 2000 version held in Brazil even though they were not Libertadores Champions that year).
Itâ€™s been a massive year for Corinthians: League winners last December; Libertadores winners for the first time in their history this July; Palmeiras relegated. The icing on this massive, mother of all Corinthians’ cakes, would be a World Club Cup win.
South Americanâ€™s take the World Club Cup seriously. Nine years ago, I had the privilege of being in the small southern Argentine town of Ushaia. Boca Juniors were playing AC Milan in Japan and they won. The fans in this town, several days bus ride away from Buenos Aires, went crazy. Singing and dancing in the freezing cold streets early in the morning to celebrate their teams win. Down went the Argentine flag in the centre of town and up went a Boca Juniors one.
Corinthians are no different. In fact they are even more fanatical about this competition. To see their team off â€“ the fans descended on SÃ£o Pauloâ€™s International Airport causing traffic chaos and literally taking over the airport. Police were called in, flares were lit, rubber bullets and other nice things were fired in return by the police. Chaos. See the pictures here: #Chaos.
One woman who was expected to give birth on the day decided that it would be a better idea to go to the airport. Some Corinthians fans have quit their jobs to go and see their team in Japan. When your company fires you in Brazil you get a nice pay-out from the government. Cash for a plan ticket in Japan just what the government intended.
Compare that to Chelsea who seem to hardly care. I was thinking â€“ where would this trophy be on their list of priorities? 3r or 4th?Â Champions League and Premier League undoubtedly come first. Probably the FA Cup too. Interesting the difference in mentality. Why, I wonder?
A SÃ£o Paulo fan brought this up with me on Facebook (and at the same time antagonising all his mates who are Corinthianos). What he forgot to mention (and duly pointed out by the Corinthianos) was that SÃ£o Paulo fans made such a big deal out of their wins in Japan, like the one against Liverpool in 2005. It’s a South America thing. What will the party be like if Chelsea win I wonder?
As for todayâ€™s game it wasnâ€™t a classic. And it wasnâ€™t a stroll for Corinthians either. I wasnâ€™t expecting one and neither were most people. Vitoria sofridaÂ for Corinthians is what I tweeted before the game and that is pretty much how it turned out. Corinthians dominated the first half. They controlled possession and looked by far the better team. They werenâ€™t creating many chances though and Al Ahly had a great chance to take the lead when some guy had a free header in the 11th minute after the Corinthians defence went walkabout.
Corinthians continued to control the game but struggled to make chances. I decided to tweet that and two minutes later with their first clear chance of the game (around 30 mins) they were ahead. The Twitter pundit’s nightmare! An excellent header into the corner of the goal by their Peruvian Striker Paulo Guerrero gave them the lead. Douglas with a very cool assist. Check it out:
Corintihans made a positive start to the second half. Emerson Sheikh was lively. But, as they half wore on Corinthians sat back, the Sheikh faded and Al Ahly improved. Where Corinthians dominated possession in the first half, the Egyptians did in the second. A few scares for Corinthians, one or two breaks that they couldnâ€™t capitalize on and that was about it. CÃ¡ssio played well and looked comfortable on crosses in the Corinthians goal. 1-0 it finished.
Guerreroâ€™s goal decisive.Â The worry however is that when Guerrero was substituted late in the game he seemed to be limping pretty badly from where I was sitting (behind my computer on a slightly dodgy and blurry stream). Once he sat down on the bench and the camera showed his face he didnâ€™t look like you would expect a man who has just givenÂ millionsÂ of Corinthianos an early Christmas present to look.Â A worry certainly but Corinthians are in the final! Bring on the winner of Chelsea and Monterrey!
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