Club World Cup Final: Santos 0 Barcelona 4

Oh dear (Getty Images)

Santos and their woeful defence were torn to shreds by Barcelona in the final of the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup. Although they created several goal scoring opportunities, the four goal margin accurately reflected the difference in class between the two teams.

Lets be clear, the difference between European club football and South American club football is huge. Finances play a big part – the wage bill at Barcelona must be at least ten times more than Santos. At Barcelona, they play in front of 100,000 every week at the Camp Nou while Santos normally play in front of 10,000 or less at the Vila Belmiro. The intensity of training and games is on another level. In the Champions league, the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi run around 13 km in 90 minutes. In the Copa Libertadores or Brazilian Serie A, it’s around 10km. That’s 30% more intense. Doing skills, shooting, controlling the ball, thinking – 30% faster.

The difference yesterday was embarrassing because if Barcelona felt like getting more goals, they would have. The score was 3-0 at half time. But South American club football is better than that. It really is. Santos’ players were scared of Barcelona and gave them too much respect. The Santos coach Muricy Ramalho got things horribly wrong tactically and in the physcological preparation of his players. For example, Santos captain Edu Dracena said: ”Losing to the best team in the world isn’t an embarrassment for anybody. We even had some chances”. WHAT? Playing like an arsehole for 90 minutes and EVEN having some chances is good enough is it? Santos keeper Rafael said: ”They are different. Against any other team we would be able to play on an equal footing.” Really?

As I suggested he would in my post on Saturday, Muricy Ramalho parked a plane in front of the Santos goal. It backfired spectacularly because they plane was full of holes. I couldn’t identify any defensive line or any disciplined positional sense. The defensive midfielders were sitting way too deep and by doing so gave far too much space for Barcelona’s midfielders to control the game. When Arouca or Henrique got the ball they didn’t know what to do with it since most of their teammates were standing right next to them. Possession was frequently surrendered. Barcelona had 71% ball possession over the course of the match.

For supposedly the best coach in Brazil, he showed up like a novice yesterday. What was his plan and how does he prepare a defence? Nobody was tracking runners from Barcelona’s midfield, there was no discipline. Basics. Barcelona are great, don’t take anything away from them but this is an analysis of Brazilian football, hence the focus on Santos’ shortcomings.

After the game Muricy said that if in Brazil a team played a 3-7-0 formation the police would have to be called in. Is he suggesting that Santos fans would revolt if they played like Barcelona? Its not the formation that matters, it’s the quality of the football. Fans know what they see. I’m tired of his whinging and excuses. He has been going on about how great Barcelona are for months and how impossible it would be to beat them. Shut up Muricy Ramalho!

What on earth was Elano doing on the bench? He is the only Santos player with several years of high level experience in European football and plently of Brazil caps to his name. He came on for the injured Danilo in the first half and the ball possession statistics started to improve marginally (from 24% to 29% for Santos). Not that he would have changed the outcome had he started but the decision defied belief.

Sometimes managers are given time to impose their style and build their squads at clubs in Europe. In Brazil teams are chopped and changed several times a year – time does not exist in a Brazilian football club director’s vocabulary. With the constant threat of an axe hovering over their heads, it means coaching decisions are taken on a short term basis not with a view to building a squad, a style and culture like Barcelona have done.

Despite these differences, it just a football match and South American clubs are normally competitive in this competition. Barcelona beat Estudiantes 2-1 after extra time in 2009, in a much more competitive match. Internacional beat Barcelona in the final in 2006. São Paulo beat Liverpool in 2005 by parking the bus.

As I eluded to yesterday, Ganso would play a key role for Santos in linking the midfield to attack. He did create several goalscoring opportunities for Neymar and Borges who failed to finish. Those passes were fantastic and will give a glimpse to the global audience of what he can do with the ball at his feet. Considering the diabolical state of his team, I would say it was an alright performance and give him a 6 out of ten. He did go missing at times and needs to learn that top quality players also have to work hard. He could take a look at Xavi for some inspiration.

Neymar was isolated for most of the match but when he did get into goal scoring opportunities he failed to take them. Some people are saying that after yesterday’s match he needs to move to Europe to improve his game. I would agree but I do think that one more year in South America wouldn’t be a bad thing. He is still on 19 years old and has a chance to win more trophies and consolidate himself as a Santos legend. If he went to Europe in say the 2012/3 transfer window that would give him a year and a half of European football to perfect his game ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

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15 thoughts on “Club World Cup Final: Santos 0 Barcelona 4


  2. Agree with all. Id just like to add that Neymar has been unfairly compared with Messi. Neymar has scored almost half of Messi goals (99 agains around 230), is the key player of Brazilian squad and is 5 years younger. He certainly has all conditions to reach or surpass Messi’s achievements within next 5 years. Until then, Messi is still far ahead Neymar.

    Now I hope Santos can form a much more competitive squad to support the stars (Ganso and Neymar), so that they can win Libertadores once more and hopefully face Barcelona again next year.

  3. You wanna know my opinion, here it is, in short and may a little bit too radical: It seemed to me like a game of an adult team against a children team. It seems pretty much the same as when I play soccer against my 9 year old son!

    Irritating, scandalous, depressing…

  4. Im so glad this result happened. Brazil needs a serious dose of reality as they are not producing the players or style of football that they are known for. They need this to hopefully start to change for 2014 but sadly I don’t see that happening until they get knocked out in the quarters or semis of 2014. This is coming from a die hard Brazilian football believer and teacher of joga bonito. The problem is joga bonito is gone and looks to be a ways away from returning.

    Here’s to hoping this inspires change and the brazil and Brazilian players we all knew and love return.

  5. Santos cannot be compared to Barcelona as much as Brazil cannot be compared to Spain right now in world football.

    Teams evolves over time and Barcelona are team which comes round once a generation.

    Its is all good about talking about Messi being the best player in the world and drawing comparisons with other greats like Maradona, Pele, Cryuff and Best, but in my life time he is the best and getting better (im in my 30’s!) However the players he plays with helps him at Barca and these predominately Spanish players are about 9/10 everytime they play in a big game. Their levels are immense and focus is of the best quality. As Manchester United Fan I can vouch to the men against boys football I have witness in Europe over last 4 years. It can be embarrasing and Barca will eventually drop down a level but the conveyor belt of talent is endless (watch the Barca v Bate Borisov in Champions league at Nou Camp as proof). One thing which Barca do well is stick to playing one touch football and moving ball with ease. They are confident in their ability to pull it off. One thing you can say is that Messi hasnt been able to raise Argentina’s performance on the world stages, which I believe is due to not enough world class talent in rest of the team

    I havent seen enough of Santos but hearing they have lost 15 games this season shows that they are not strong enough defensively. Neymar may come good but the Brazilian league cannot be compared to the best European leagues. Especially when all the best Brazilian defenders have left to ply their trade in Europe. I think for the benefit of Brazil he should move to Europe if only to play against better defenders like Messi has done.

    I was more surprise about the tactical naviety shown by Santos. I wonder with Big Phil would have done a better job.

    Anyhow im looking forward to the next World cup to see if Brazil can find a coach who can mix the best of Brazil with a european defence. I watch the old team of ’82 and they had immense attacking talent but defensively poor. At home that would be unforgivable

  6. Any hope of victory was going to rely on the right attitude and the right tactics, neither of which was present. You can’t beat Barcelona when your play is riddled with so many mistakes.

    On the other hand, I really do find it hard to criticize the players too much given how the odds were stacked against them. The minute margin for error demanded a performance that the team weren’t up to producing on the night.

    As for Muricy…I really don’t know what to say. The fact that he’s considered the best coach in Brazil says a lot about Brazilian football at the moment. The best thing that could come out of this loss is the soul searching that Brazilian football seems to have started. It’s like Barcelona’s brilliance has just suddenly been revealed.

  7. LOL you go on and on about how they have to go to europe to get better. Well no they dont have to go to europe to get better. What they need to do is keep those young players in brazil train them harder and surround them with better quality players that’s all. Brasil needs to stop selling its players to europe and keep them at home. You had Ganso and Neymar, elano, danilo, henrique all good players but they need more help. So stop sucking barcelona and europes dick that you dont need europe to be great. Spain is playing great and international level because almost their entire team plays for one club all year around. The rest play for madrid the same thing Germany is doing now with bayern munich. Brazil needs to use its money from a good economy and bring its players home.

  8. Some good comments on here, thanks everybody.

    The soul searching has begun in Brazil, that is for sure. Most of the pundits here (I’m in Brazil on holiday at the moment) are saying what a lot of you have said, that this is a wakeup call for Brazilian football.

    The talent is there but the philosophy needs to change. Brazil seems to have gone for power and height over skill in recent years. Barcelona have shown you dont need that. Barcelona and Spain are showing Brazil how the beautiful game should be played. Brazil needs to go back to its roots and combine them with the realities of the modern game – like Barcelona have done.

    At the moment, Chino, European club foobtall is miles ahead of Brazilian club football. It showed on Sunday. Therefore it does make sense for a young player to go and play there to improve his game. I don’t think they have to go right away though as I mentioned in the post. In the long term, yes, I completely agree with you that Brazilian clubs need to improve and can produce high quality teams themselves. If they do that and can compete financially then players won’t need to leave Brazil. But that will take time and a lot of things need to change before that happens.

    It will also help if player agents stop sending players to Europe when it is not in the players’ best interests just so they can make a quick buck – André who played at Santos last year is a good example. He went to Ukraine, didn’t get a game and came back here on loan to Atlético Mineiro. He would have been much better off staying at Santos where he started every game, scored lots of goals and earned a call up to the seleção.

    In my opinion, to do that, clubs need to start thinking more long term, giving coaches time, creating a culture at a club (like Barcelona have done), getting their finances, management in order, become more transparent, stop all of these behind the scenes political battles and power struggles. It needs to clean up its act, make the spectacle better for fans. Create a more professional environment for players to thrive in: where players dont get involved in club politics, dont have to worry about getting paid on time, dont have to worry about the coach being fired and can focus on training, tactics and football. Also, star players must stop getting preferential treatment – that is bad for team morale, the work ethic and professionalism.

  9. Enjoyable read with some great valid points also. I thought this match was a really good watch and for me just showed the class that if we are honest probably only Barcelona have… World football has shifted from Brazil to Spain, can’t wait for the Brazilian World Cup.

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  11. Santos isn’t one of the better Brazilian teams. If Barcelona beat Vasco de Gama or Corinthians 4-0, then You can say Europe is far superior. Santos was 10th in Brazil’s serie a in 2011. At the time of the match they were probably the seventh, eighth, ninth, or tenth best team in Brazil. That’s like Barcelona beating Rayo Vallecano or Getafe 4-0

    • Appreciate the comment ME, but be careful when judging a team’s strength just by looking at their league position in Brazil. Because there are so many games and the calendar is a mess, teams often start the league Championship by resting some of their star players. That is exactly what Santos did last year: playing their reserve team in the Serie A and full strength team in the Libertadores. Just because they finished 10th in the league, it doesn’t mean they are the 10th best team in Brazil.

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