Friday 14 December 2012
While Chelsea will be in search of becoming world club champions for the first time when they step out into the Yokohama Stadium on Sunday, their opponents in the FIFA Club World Cup final Corinthians have the advantage of experience.
The team from Sao Paulo triumphed in an expanded tournament in 2000 which also featured the Barclays Premier League's Manchester United.
South American football expert, freelance journalist and editor of www.southamericanfootball.co.uk Rupert Fryer gives some more details about the team the European champions are facing:
As is typical in South America, Corinthians have been eagerly anticipating the Club World Cup for six months. While often looked upon as little more than a distraction by their European counterparts, the competition holds huge prestige for clubs from South America, who hold the title of World Champions above all else.
The honour would hold even more resonance for the Timao (big club) than usual, however, as they only ended their 100-year wait for the Copa Libertadores (South America’s Champions League) this year. December’s trip to Japan has not only been the overriding reason for being able to keep hold of the likes of star players Ralf and Paulinho, but it has also allowed them to attract some big names to the club, including Argentinian Juan Manuel Martinez and Peru forward Paolo Guerrero, both of whom were who were brought in at huge expense from Velez in Argentina and Hamburg in Germany, respectively. The Brazilian league champions in 2011, they finished a full 20 points behind champions Fluminense this season as they took they foot of the gas to prepare for FIFA’s showpiece in Japan.
Coach Tite is the man behind their recent success, and was a strong contender for the Brazil job before the appointment of former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari last week. His achievements are made all the more remarkable by that he was fortunate to hold on to his job in early 2011, when his side, which included Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo, failed to make the group stage of the 2011 Libertadores.
Since then, Tite moved the club’s philosophy away from that of the star player, instead placing greater significance on the collective. His 4-3-3-cum-4-4-2 may not have been pretty on the eye, but that was of no concern to the estimated 26 million Corinthians fans when his side finally held aloft the elusive Libertadores trophy this year.
The arrivals of Martinez and Guerrero have made them become slightly more expansive since July, but if they are to overcome Chelsea and win the Club World Cup, it is likely be to via a well-drilled, cautious approach that seeks to maximise their threat on the counter-attack and from set-pieces.
Emerson Sheik was Corinthians’ star in the Copa Libertadores, scoring both goals as his side saw off Boca Juniors 2-0 in the second leg of the final. When Corinthians won the league in 2011, he achieved the record of winning three straight Brasileirão titles with different clubs. At 34, he has been talking about the possibility of a call-up to the Brazil side, despite having played three games for Qatar in 2008. FIFA subsequently realised that his youth caps for Brazil meant he was illegible and his international career with Qatar was brought to an abrupt end.