Real Madrid are favorites in Saturday’s Club World Cup final, but the European Champions will be made to work hard for their win
The dream final between Grêmio and Real Madrid in the Club World Cup action has been confirmed, as the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi is set to be the host on Saturday.
The champions of the South American continent are colliding with the team that has dominated European competitions over the past two seasons, so what are the odds on the Brazilians causing an upset?
After successfully overcoming all the obstacles and winning their first Copa Libertadores title since 1995, Grêmio are looking to make history as they prepare to face Spanish giants Real Madrid. The Rio Grande do Sul-based side will enter the final without their most important player, 21-year old Arthur, who Barcelona is reportedly extremely keen on. The central midfielder suffered an injury in the Libertadores final, away to Lanus in Argentina and has been ruled out of the whole tournament.
In the semi-final against Mexican powerhouse Pachuca, Arthur’s absence was already notable. Grêmio’s build-up play looked poor, and their football was uninspiring as they failed to control possession in the first half, allowing the opponent to neutralize all their attempts and hit them with counter attacks on more than one occasion.
In the second half, the situation improved as the Brazilians looked more willing to attack in numbers, and started imposing their dominance on the game, especially following the inclusions of Joel and Everton, instead of Lucas Barrios and Michel.
Grêmio were more dynamic all of a sudden, but Luan’s numerous attempts were not enough to break the deadlock, as the two teams headed into extra time. That is where Everton, who had come on as a sub, took matters into hand by scoring a superb solo goal that decided the faith of the game.
On the other hand, Real Madrid’s performance was not any more reassuring, as they trailed against the hosts, Al Jazeera, following a goal from former Corinthians forward Romarinho. The Arabs would go on to score another goal, which could have possibly killed the game, but the turning point of the match was when VAR canceled it. Five time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo would then punish the hosts with the equalizer, before Welsh star Gareth Bale came on to give them the final hit.
Real Madrid will still be the heavy favorites to come out victorious on Saturday, but Al Jazeera’s resilience will certainly be a source of inspiration for the Brazilian, as Renato Gaucho is sure to look back at this game to analyze the Spaniards’ weaknesses. In Grêmio’s favor, even when they lack creativity or do not show offensive brilliance, they can still rely on a solid, organized back-line to sit deep, and keep the game goal-less as long as possible, before possibly snatching a winner in the second half, the way compatriots Internacionale and Corinthians did against FC Barcelona and Chelsea, in 2006 and 2012, respectively.
Football games are only won on the pitch, and Saturday’s final will not be any different.