Right ho, then. Another truncated version of the “FIFA Anthem”, and we’re ready to go (and might I briefly register my surprise at the number of hacks that actually stood for it – it represents “all 207 member nations of the FIFA family”, apparently).
7.20: And we’re off. Barca must have the toss, because they’re in red and blue, and Inter are in their change kit of all white for the second match in a row. The Barca fans here are actually making a bit of noise tonight. It feels like a proper football match.
7.25: A quick after-thought. If any of you have any duck puns you can donate to me, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m running a bit low here. Also, in an act of daring that, so far as I can see, borders on reckless, Inter are playing three up front.
7.30: If you could permit me a small indulgence here… if there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s players that walk back from an offside position. Inter were attacking quite nicely there, and themselves into a decent attacking position, but the move broke down because three of their players were offside. Meanwhile, the first corner of the match goes to the Brazilians, who look much sharper than they did during the week. Pato heads well over. he gets top, ahem, “billing” for Internacionale this evening.
7.35: Beautiful piece of running from Wellington Monteiro there, carrying the ball forward thirty yards before hopelessly misplacing his pass. You wouldn’t have got Tony Adams trying that, you know.
7.39: First real chance of the match for Barcelona. Deco’s shot from the edge of the area is parried by Clemer, and Ronaldinho puts the follow-up into the side-netting. In the minute or so after this, Gudjohnsen and Ronaldinho both have penalty claims turned down. Both of them fall into the “I’ve seen them given for less” category.
7.42: Good chance for Barcelona. Deco gets a bit of space on the right and crosses for Gudjohnsen, but his downward header drops just wide.
7.45: A little bit of pinball in the Internacionale penalty area, and the ball falls to Gudjohnsen, who cracks the ball a couple of feet over. Barca are in charge at the moment, but Inter are largely matching them.
7.48: Sudden silence from the crowd, accompanied by a lot of camera flashes as Ronaldinho takes a free-kick from the right hand side of the penalty area, but it’s straight down Clemer’s throat (not literally, of course – the only person on the pitch who could fit a whole football in his mouth is obviously Ronaldinho).
7.51: Two infuruating moments from Inter inside ten seconds. Firstly, Cardoso, having got himself into an excellent position wide left plays a poor ball across the face of the goal rather than cutting in and trying a shot. Then, following up in the right-hand corner, Fernandao commits a needless foul. Grr.
7.54: Chasing the ball towards the corner flag, Pato loses his footing and slips. You could almost say that he “takes a dive”. Moments later, Ronaldinho gets the half inch of space that he needs on the edge of the Inter penalty area, but pulls his shot across the goal and wide.
7.58: Inter create a good chance, with Indio suddenly appearing un-marked on the right hand side of the Barcelona penalty area, but his shot is too high. Inter are sitting deep and trying to hit Barca on the break – a tactic that may prove more successful if they commit more players forward.
8.05: First yellow card of the match to Wellington Monteiro, for booting Ronaldinho up in the air. Cue a thinly disguised snigger from just behind me in the press box.
8.06: Half-time: FC Barcelona 0-0 SC Internacionale – A curious first half, all things said. Half chances for both teams, but neither goalkeeper was seriously tested. With the quality of players that are on the pitch at the moment, though, you can hardly say that it’s not entertaining stuff. I’m off in search off booze or coffee, so I’ll see you all in 15 minutes.
8.22: Okay. Inter are back out for the second half, but Barca are nowhere to be seen. Maybe they’ve decided to stay in the changing rooms because it’s too cold. I wouldn’t blame them if they did. One change for each team – Belletti on for Zambrotta for Barca, and Fabian Vargas on for Alex for Inter.
8.27: Deco crosses for Ronaldinho, but the Alice-banded Brazilian can’t quite get high enough to make contact with the ball.
8.31: Someone on the Inter coaching staff has clearly done something to upset the referee, who runs over to their bench making that “now, just CUT IT OUT” signal with his arms.
8.32: Pato shoots well over from the edge of the penalty area, but his shot flies well over. He needs to keep his shots down. Yeah. Sorry about that.
8.34: Yellow card for Puyol, who has a kick at Pato. Ceara shoots well wide for Inter. Let’s be generous and say that he was off balance.
8.37: A beautiful ball over the top for Gudjohnsen, who is bundled off the ball on the edge of the Inter penalty area. Much whistling when no foul is given. Seconds later, Iniesta gets a ball in the face at a fairly fierce velocity, but he seems okay. Substitution for Barca – Xavi on for Motta. Deco tries a shot from thirty-five yards, which sails a couple of yards wide.
8.40: Substitution for Internacionale. Duck off (!). Pato replaced by Luis Adriano.
8.42: I am, shall we say, surprised and disappointed to note that it has taken me 63 minutes to notice that Fabian Vargas has got a mullet. I’m clearly letting my standards slip here.
8.45. Luis Adriano has got something of the Faustino Asprilla about him, from a distance. By that, I don’t mean that he’s going to turn up at Darlington and pretend for a couple of weeks that he’s going to play for them.
8.50: This has al gone a little bit stale. Inter are doing a pretty job of keeping Ronaldinho quiet, though. They’ve made their third change, too – the other Adriano is on for… Fernandao.
8.54: Two good chances for Barca in the space of a couple of minutes. A low shot well saved by Clemer, then Deco drives the ball across the six yard box looking for Gudjohnsen, but the ball is stabbed just wide by a defender.
8.59: Two things of note. Firstly, the level of excitement every time Barca get a corner is completely disproportionate to the actual threat that any of them (and they’ve had a few) have caused. Secondly, the Brazilian commentator behind me is almost apoplectic with excitement.
9.00: GOAL – FC Barcelona 0-1 SC Internacionale: Well. Adriano is put through the middle, and calmly lifts the ball over Valdes. The entire Inter bench invades the pitch and, two minutes later, the Brazilian commentator’s head seems about to explode with excitement.
9.03: Deco shoots from twenty yards and brings a magnificent one-handed save from Clemer. It doesn’t look as if it’s going to be their night. They’ve got six minutes to save it.
9.05: Ronaldinho curls a free kick inches wide of Clemer’s right hand post. That would have been top corner if it had been Aboutrika.
9.07: A last throw of the dice for Barca. Gudjohnsen off for Ezquerro.
9.09: Three minutes injury time. Adriano boots the ball into a group of Inter fans. They won’t be getting that ball back any time soon.
9.12: One final chance for Barca. Ronaldinho chips the ball through to Deco, who clatters into Clemer but can’t get to the ball.
9.13: FULL TIME – FC Barcelona 0-1 SC Internacionale: Fair play to Inter. They sat back and absorbed the Barcelona, and hit them on the break. There’s no question that this was their game plan, and it worked. Whether they’re really the best team in the world is seriously open to question (and it’s a question that can only really be answered by FIFA opening up this competition), but they came here tonight with one thing in mind, and there’s no doubt that they were successful.
The Awards Ceremony: I’ll say this much: Barca could have scarcely got more excited than Inter have at winning had the result been reversed. Now, here’s something that fair takes your breath away – I go off for a cigarette, and by the time I get back a complete podium has been built and Sepp Blatter is walking onto the pitch with the FIFA Anthem blaring out over the stadium PA at about 200 decibels. I think we may be supposed to stand and salute or something.
In the space of that five minutes, the stadium has also more or less emptied. There are three awards for the goal of the tournament. The bronze ball goes to Ronaldinho, the silver to Iarley, and the gold to Deco. He wins a giant key with “TOYOTA” printed on the side of it. I’m sure he’s delighted. The Player Of The Tournament award goes, somewhat surprisingly to… Motta. Motta? I think I must have mis-heard this.
Internacionale look thrilled to bits with their trophy. The podium, in case you were wondering, looks as if it was made by Claire’s Accessories. For the third time in a row, the best club side in the world are Brazilian… and most of their best players are playing in Europe. It’s frightening, if you think about it. Confetti, smoke and fireworks everywhere.
That’s about it for this post. I’m off to the “mixed zone”, to see if I can get a few words out of Ronaldinho on the subject of his Alice band. I’ll be back shortly to give you my final thoughts on a quite extraordinary week in about an hour or so.