TOKYO: Corinthians of Brazil, champions of South America, are within 90 minutes of being crowned club champions of the welcome after their 1-0 win over Al Ahly of Egypt in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup.
A 30th-minute header from one-time Bayern Munich forward Jose Paolo Guerrero, to a delicate assist from Douglas, decided the tie and sent Corinthians closer to a repeat of their success – under an old format – in 2000.
The Egyptians, who have played virtually no competitive domestic football this year, created little and their best opportunity had already been squandered by Ramy Rabia in the 12th minute, before Corinthians scored.
The Egyptian domestic league has been suspended since February when 72 Ahly supporters died in clashes with rival fans of Masry in the Port Said stadium. Hence Ahly players had been wearing black armbands in Japan for this game and for their quarter-final win over Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Corinthians coach Tite had warned that they were prepared to “play dirty” if that is what it takes to win the world crown.
Tite, who had been a contender for the job of Brazil coach before the appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari last month, said: “We believe in working as hard as is necessary. If we have to break a leg, we will. If we have to play dirty, we will. I have all of these options at my disposal. I just have to choose which one I’m going to use.”
Chelsea face Monterrey in the other semi-final on Thursday in the Yokohama International Stadium (with GoalRef goal-line technology).
Chelsea are without injured John Terry and newly-operated Romeu Oriol in Tokyo but manager Rafael Benitez has plenty of experience of the event. He was a runner-up as manager of Liverpool in 2005 and winner as coach of Internazionale in 2010 – albeit he was sacked as soon as they returned to Italy.
Benitez said: “It’s a massive competition and I think everyone here in this club has the same idea as me, to win every trophy that you can.”
Chelsea flew out at the weekend after two wins in four days, by 6-1 over Nordsjaelland in the Champions League and a 3-1 over Sunderland in the Premier League.
Chelsea are aiming to become the second English team to win the competition after Manchester United’s success in 2008.
Monterrey lost in the quarter-finals last year but reached the semis by defeating South Korea Republic’s Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai on Sunday.
Argentinian midfielder Cesar Delgado struck both late goals which killed off Ulsan after building a string of ever-more-threatening attacks in cooperation with Aldo de Nigris and youngster Jesus Corona.
Coach Victor Vucetich said: “We know Chelsea have a great squad but we have to go out and repeat what we did in our first game. We’ve got confidence in ourselves and we’re going to fight hard for the result we want and stick together as a team.”
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