Chelsea enter the 7th FIFA Club World Cup for their first time in their history against Mexican outfit Monterrey in the semi-final, but here’s a brief look at the other semi-finalists as well as Thursday’s opponents.
Founded in 1945, last year’s losing quarter finalists have gone one round better this year, defeating South Koreans Ulsan Hyundai in their second consecutive appearance in the tournament. Monterrey are currently lying 7th in their domestic league; won 5, drawn 8 lost 4.
Having won the Mexican Primera Division 4 times in their history, most recently in 2010, the Mexicans have been most dominating in their continent, winning back-to-back CONCACAF Champions Leagues the past two seasons. Having appeared in last year’s Club World Cup, Monterrey are not to be scoffed at as they are experienced of knowing what it is like to play in Japan in December and more significantly, will want to prove a point and restore Mexican pride from last year’s early exit.
The striker returned to Monterrey after initially scoring 45 goals in 87 appearances in three seasons. However his second coming proved even more successful, voted player of the season in Monterrey’s 2010 title winning season and finishing top goal scorer in their 2010-11 Champions League triumph with 7 goals. He is also a proven international striker, with a ratio of almost a goal every two games for his native Chile. Suazo will not look tall next to players like Mata and Oscar, but his pace and preference to play off the last defenders shoulder remains a threat.
Were Chelsea to qualify for the final, the likely opponents to contest for the Club World Cup are Corinthians. Europe has dominated the competition in the last 5 years with the other two winners coming from Brazil, contributing 3 finalists since the FIFA Club World Cup beginnings. Corinthians did actually win the formerly known Intercontinental Cup back in 2000 and have a key interest to pit themselves against European competition as their greatest test.
Corinthians have found domestic success a familiar affair with three league titles in the nineties with two more added to the honours roll in 2005 and 2011. But like Chelsea, their continental triumph came in emphatic fashion, winning the Copa Libertadores in 2012 with a formidable rear-guard, conceding only 4 goals in 14 games, winning the competition unbeaten, and the first side to do so since 1978.
The 25 year old uncapped Brazilian goalkeeper has had disappointing experiences trying to make his career in Europe. Finally being released by Dutch side PSV to return to his native land, his first season has been a massive success, winning the Copa Libertadores in his first season and a clean sheet ratio of almost 1 every two matches, instilling a confidence in his defence that resonates with the solidity throughout the team.
Egyptian side Al Ahly are another team familiar to the expectation of the World Club Cup, finishing third place in 2006 their best standing in the competition. It should also be expected to see them in this competition in years to come. Quite frankly, and recognised by the Confederation of African Football in their naming of “African Club of the Century”, Al Ahly are the most successful club in the 20th Century.
The club are simply record breakers, seven times CAF Champions League Winners, winning their domestic Premier League no fewer than 36 times.
Chelsea fans may also be familiar with club captain and former Tottenham player, Hossam Ghaly.
34 year old Aboutrika was last season one of the leading players for Al Ahly, scoring 5 goals in last season’s CAF Champions League triumph. Past his 2006-2008 peaks which saw him twice scoop African Player of the Year and top goal scorer in the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup and 2006 CAF Champions League with 3 and 8 goals respectively, Aboutrika’s experience and clinical finishing will be a focal point for the team.