And The World Champions Are… Milan.
Perhaps surprisingly, the FIFA Club World Cup left the best until last, with two magnificent matches to mark the end of the 2007 competition. In the first match, for third place, Urawa Red Diamonds came from a goal down to lead Etoile Sportive De Sahel 2-1, before a horrific goalkeeping error pegged them back to a penalty shoot-out, which the Japanese side won on penalties. It’s probably fair to say that the experiment of having a side from the home nation in the tournament has been a success. Urawa, in spite of a late season collapse in the J-League, have been far from outplayed in any of their performances in this competition and thoroughly deserve their third place finish. Etoile have been the surprise package of the tournament. Even their win in the CAF Champions League was a major surprise, so their performance in getting to the play-off match and only losing on penalties in what was effectively an away match.
After this match, the two pre-tournament favourites had a lot to live up to in the final. As it turned out, this was a step too far for Boca, and Milan thoroughly deserved their win. Inzaghi gave Italian side an early, but uncharacteristically sloppy defending allowed Palacio to level the scores up a couple of minutes later. Five minutes into the second half, Alessandro Nesta gave Milan the lead again with an outstanding volley from twelve yards out. Ten minutes later a run down the left-hand side by Kaka ended in him putting the ball under the Boca goalkeeper Caranta, and it looked as if this would kill the game dead, but midway through the second half Kaladze was sent off, giving Boca a glimmer of hope. Two minutes later, Inzaghi made it four and this time is really was all over. Even a late own goal from Ambrosini wasn’t much of a dent (though there was still time for Ledesma to get sent off for Boca, too), and Milan are the world champions, now.
The European giants will continue to not care, of course, until the format of the competition is changed to be more representative of world football. Few will take anyone’s claims of being the world champions seriously when all they have done is won two matches for the honour. As I said in my earlier post on the subject, FIFA should jettison the Confederations Cup and give this competition the make-over that it deserves and needs. Here are highlights of today’s matches.