In beating River Plate 3-0 in the final of the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup on Sunday, Barcelona completed their third victory in this annual tournament which was hosted by Japan this year. Having qualified for the competition as winners of the UEFA Champions League, Barca had already beaten Asian Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande by a 3-0 scoreline in their only other game, while South American Copa Libertadores victors River Plate had overcome Sanfrecce Hiroshima from the Japanese J1 League by a more slender 1-0 margin. Yet it was a third victory for Barcelona in a competition which has tended to be dominated by the sole European representative.
The competition was formerly known as the FIFA Club World Championship and the idea of a tournament for the continental champions of seven confederations was conceived in the early millennium years. It was thought that the original Intercontinental Cup was too restrictive in allowing just the South American and European club title winners to participate but since 2005, the eleven winners of the competition have been restricted to competitors from those two continents.
Although the format allows teams from other continents to play against their more illustrious opponents, the South American (CONMEBOL) and European Champions (UEFA) are seeded until the semi-finals and injuries deprived Barcelona of the services of Neymar and Lionel Messi for their game against Guangzhou Evergrande, but they still secured a comfortable victory.
Both Messi and Neymar returned for the final joining Luis Suarez in attack with the Uruguayan netting a hat-trick in the semi-final. Barca had drawn their most recent three games in both domestic and European competition but they were facing a River Plate team with just three victories earned from their ten previous games in the Argentina Primera League. The Buenos Aires based team had also suffered from the outgoing transfer of leading striker Fernando Cavenaghi during August following the example of many South American footballers pursuing their ambition of a move to the more lucrative European football leagues, although Cavenaghi had previously played in Russia, France, Italy and Spain.
During the game on Sunday, River Plate were just unable to cope with the South American forwards playing for Barcelona as they slumped to an expected 3-0 defeat, and with the top European clubs now attempting to recruit the best available players from around the World, it is evident that the UEFA based teams are assembling stronger squads than their inter-continental counterparts.
Since 2007, only Corinthians of Brazil have prevented a European monopoly of the tournament when beating Chelsea 1-0 in the 2012 final and should Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or any of the other 2015-16 Champions League favourites qualify for the 2016 competition, also to be staged in Japan, it is expected that it will be another formality for the UEFA champions.