Thursday, December 14, 2006

FIFA Club World Cup 2006

Just when I was about to write off the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup as irrelevant and lacking in quality, which is strange considering that the six clubs involved--FC Barcelona, SC Internacional, Club America, Jeonbuk Hundai Motors, Al-Ahly, and Auckland City FC--are all champions of their respective confederations, last night’s semi final game between Egyptian team Al-Ahly and Brazilian side Internacional was out of sight. I’d never seen Al-Ahly play before this tournament and knew little to nothing about them, but Internacional was a team I’d become fond of after watching them battle it out and eventually beat the reigning champs Sao Paulo in this year’s Copa Libertadores. Unlike the first two games that opened the tournament—Auckland City v Al-Ahly; Jeonbuk v Club America—the quality of last night’s match was what you’d expect from two such prestigious clubs and it was always deliriously enjoyable.

I should clarify, though, that the Auckland City v Al-Ahly wasn’t bad exactly, but it didn’t exactly reward me for staying up till four in the morning to watch the blasted thing, either! Auckland City, a true underdog team as well as an amateur one, easily won me over with their foolhardy courage and ability to give the Egyptians the occasional problem. But the next match between Korean club Jeonbuk and Mexico’s Club America was woeful and embarrassing in moments. It was still fun to watch, though, if only because I couldn’t believe some of the gaffes being inflicted upon the viewing public—namely a disturbingly bad deflection of the ball by Jeonbuk keeper Kwon Sun-Tae into the path of America’s Argentinean bull Claudio Lopez, who then subsequently screwed up the shot by shooting it wide of the net with no one to hinder him. There were other cringe worthy moments—thankfully, I’ve already forgotten most of the specifics—and after the match, as I dragged my sleep-starved body to bed, I had to rethink my ambition to watch all the games live. No doubt the brutal jet lag has taken a toll on many of the players, and the seemingly non-stop schedule has flogged plenty of punishment upon their bones and muscles as well, degrading their skills and my mind along with it.

But after last night’s match, I’m sticking with it. Internacional, who are now missing a few major players (including Rafael Sobis, who now plays for Spanish club Real Betis, and Tinga, who plays for German club Dortmund) since the Copa Libertadores win, still has plenty of old veterans and youngsters to make trouble for their opponents. And the new super-hyped kid on the pitch, seventeen year-old Alexandre Pato—who is already being compared to that Ronaldinho fella—didn’t disappoint. Pato, aka Alexander the Duck, scored early in the first half, only to have it disqualified for being offside, and then a struck again in the 23rd minute with a controversial strike that counted (despite its being slightly offside). He was impressive throughout and he’s definitely someone to watch. No doubt the sporting Mabuses, I mean agents, are already devising black magic spells to lure him to their respective clubs. The Egyptians scored themselves in the early stages of the second half evening things up and valiantly controlled the game for large portions, never losing their composure throughout. But Internacional scored again, breaking the tie, and managing to hold on for the well-deserved win.

Tonight, European champions Barcelona take on Club America in the semi finals and it should turn out to be a brilliant good time. Both clubs met this past summer in Houston for an exhibition match and Club America did not make things easy for the boys from Catalonia. So tonight’s meeting should be a tasty treat for supporters of either club as well as for neutrals.

For more information about the tournament, which has been in existence since 2000 and is held annually in Japan, click here and here.


Anonymous said...

Well, that (Barca v America) was pretty fun, wasn't it? I'm still grinning.

Derek said...

It was so much fun I'm going to rewatch it--this time with Lynda. I loved that Gudjohnsen managed that tricky-angled shot, but he disappeared yet again for large portions of the match.

Wonderful all the same.