This year’s Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo proved his star status in the final of 2016 FIFA Club World Cup played at Yokohama Japan on December 18. Real Madrid were down in the dumps in 51st minute of their final with hosts Kashima Antlers, who led 2-1 until the 60th minute. But when Kashima’s Shuto Yamamoto brought down Lucas Vazquez in the box, Madrid earned a spot-kick. Ronaldo stepped up and converted to record his first goal. That brought a 2-2 parity and Real Madrid heaved a sigh of relief. After the matched slipped into extra time, Ronaldo took Madrid 3-2 ahead in the 98th minute and finished his hat-trick 6 minutes later to earn the second title for his team in the 13-year history of the tournament.
2016 FIFA Club World Cup was the 13th edition of the tournament, which involves competition among champion clubs from six continental confederations and national league champion from the host country. The first edition was held in 2000 in Brazil and there were no tournaments during 2001-2004. However since 2005, FIFA Club World Cup has been hosted every year. In 13 editions, FC Barcelona have won the tournament three times in 2009, 2011 and 2015 and Real Madrid made it for the second time this year after also winning in 2014. Out of 13 tournaments, Japan leads in hosting it for 8 times, including the one, which just got concluded.
The six confederation champions in this year’s Club World Cup were; Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, the CONMEBOL champions by virtue of winning 2016 Copa Libertadores; 2016 UEFA champions Spain’s Real Madrid; Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyndai Motors, 2016 AFC champions; South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundown, 2016 CAF champions; 2016 CONCACAF champions Club America and OFC Champions League winners Auckland City of New Zealand. The seventh team was from host nation Japan and Kashima Antlers earned that honor by winning the 2016 Japanese J1 League. Of the seven teams, Atletico Nacional and Real Madrid entered straight as semifinalists, while Jeonbuk Hyndai Motors, Mamelodi Sundown and America found direct entries into the quarterfinals. The fourth quarterfinalist was decided in the play-off between Auckland City and hosts Kashima Antlers.
After Kashima Antlers defeated Auckland City 2-1 in the play-off on December 8, the four quarterfinalists were confirmed. Since two semifinalists were already decided, two others came from the first quarterfinal between Mamelodi Sundown and Kashima Antlers and the second quarterfinal between Jeonbuk Hyndai Motors and America. Both these matches were played on December 11 and Kashima Antlers and America reached the semifinals. In the first semifinal at Osaka on December 14, Kashima Antlers defeated Atletico Nacional 3-0 and booked their place in the final. In the other semifinal, Real Madrid beat America 2-0 and earned their second entry into the final after 2014.
The final was played at Yokohama on December 18. Real Madrid looked like heading for their Club World Cup second title, when Luka Modric’s volley in 9th minute bounced off from Kashima goalkeeper and Karim Benzema coolly tapped the rebound into the goal. But Kashima snatched a shock equalizer in 44th minute, when a cross by Shoma Doi found Shibasaki. The Japanese couldn’t score in his first attempt but got lucky, when the ball came back to him from a poor clearance. This time, Shibasaki smashed hard into the net.
After the teams came back from break at 1-1, Shibasaki struck again in the 51st minute. Yet again, it was a poor clearance from Real Madrid and Shibasaki dodged three opponents before firing a low shot past Keylor Navas from 25 yards. Real looked in danger of losing a game after a 36-match unbeaten streak in competitive matches but got lucky to earn a 60th minute penalty, when Lucas Vazquez was wrongly fouled by Shuto Yamamoto. Ronaldo made no mistake in converting. No more goals could be scored in the normal time.
When play went to extra-time, Ronaldo ended Kashima’s dream in 98th minute after he collected a pass from Benzema and shot past the Kashima goalkeeper. 6 minutes later, it was all over for Kashima, when Ronaldo struck again to complete his hat-trick with an emphatic finish into the roof of the net. The 4-2 victory brought Real Madrid their second FIFA Club World Cup title after they first won in 2014 by beating Argentina’s San Lorenzo in Morocco. Ronaldo was the top scorer in Japan with 4 goals and he was aptly named as the player-of-the-match.
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