Wednesday 12 December 2012
Chelsea midfielder Oscar is hoping to lay the ghost of Christmas past by overcoming CF Monterrey on Thursday to reach the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup final.
He may only be 21 but Oscar has more FIFA Club World Cup experience than any of his Chelsea team-mates, having played in the competition two years ago.
"It's a very important tournament in Brazil, and across the world"
In December 2010, Oscar travelled to the United Arab Emirates with Internacional who, like Chelsea this week, entered the tournament at the last-four stage with high hopes of reaching the final.
The Chelsea playmaker will not, however, be taking Thursday's semi-final opponents from Mexico lightly because his former side succumbed to a surprise reverse at the hands of Congo's TP Mezembe.
"It was one of those things that happen in football," he told Chelsea's official website. "We were all surprised because we knew our team was superior to theirs. We tried everything we could to score a goal but it was one of those days where the ball just wouldn't go in the net."
This time around Oscar intends to make amends for that defeat as Chelsea seek their third trophy of 2012, after winning the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in May.
That penalty shootout success against Bayern Munich booked the Barclays Premier League side's passage to Japan where, as European club champions, they will face Mexico's North and Central American (CONCACAF) champions, who beat Ulsan Hyundai, the Asian champions, 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
"I'm very happy to have the opportunity to take part in the competition for the second time, it's a very important tournament in Brazil, and across the world, so I'm looking forward to it," said Oscar. “Last time out I was 19 years old, but we didn't manage to win it, so I just hope that this time I can have a great competition and win it with Chelsea."
Oscar’s loss was Rafa Benitez's gain as the Chelsea manager, then in charge of Inter Milan, guided the Italian treble-winners to a 3-0 victory against Mezembe in the final in Abu Dhabi.
Now the Spaniard is hoping to get the chance to double up by overcoming Monterrey at Yokohama Stadium, where he lost the 2005 final to Sao Paolo as manager of Liverpool.
"It was a great experience for me and I hope it will be for my players"
"It is important to have an opportunity to win any trophy, but especially this one," said Benitez, of the tournament which features the champions of all six continental confederations.
"It was a great experience for me and I hope it will be for my players. I got to the final in 2005 and won the tournament in 2010."
Manchester United are the only other Barclays Premier League side to have qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup and Sir Alex Ferguson's team returned from Japan with the trophy in 2008, after beating LDU Quito thanks to Wayne Rooney's solitary goal in the final.
Monterrey reached the Club World Cup last year but lost their first game against Kashiwa Reysol. This year, however, 'Los Rayados' (the Striped Ones) claim to be better prepared with teenage striker Jesus Corona emerging as a future star and two of Mexico's Olympic gold medal-winning team in their ranks - defenders Darvin Chavez and Hiram Mier.
A more obvious danger for the European club champions is Cesar Delgado, the former Lyon striker from Argentina, who scored twice against Ulsan.
Should Chelsea get past their Mexican opponents, they will meet Brazilian club Corinthians, after Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero struck to hand the Copa Libertadores winners a 1-0 success against Egypt's Al-Ahly, the CAF Champions League winners.
Chelsea (from): Cech, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Bertrand, Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Moses, Marin, Piazon, Torres, Turnbull.
Wednesday 12 December
Al-Ahly 0-1 Corinthians, Toyota Stadium, Toyota, Aichi, 10.30am GMT
Thursday 13 December
Monterrey v Chelsea, International Stadium, Yokohama, 10.30am GMT