In the eyes of many football pundits, the FIFA Club World Cup tournament is akin to a non-event with the UEFA Champions League winners most likely to clinch the trophy and the Copa Libertadores victors offered as an alternative. The contest has been staged in its current format since 2005 but it was noticeable that over 38,000 spectators watched the weekend final of this year’s renewal between Real Madrid and San Lorenzo of Argentina. The football public of Marrakesh in Morocco were afforded the opportunity to view some the best players in the World.
Since 2005, only teams from South America and Europe have won the annual contest but it allows the winners of the various FIFA federation club tournaments to meet in a host country to earn the privilege of becoming the so-called ‘best team in the World’. Seeding allows for the CONMEBOL and UEFA teams to participate from the semi-final onwards.
Morocco won the rights to stage both the 2013 and 2014 renewal of this competition after beating Iran, South Africa and United Arab Emirates in the bidding process and they could not have been disappointed by the size of the attendances in a country where the standard of football is below the level witnesses in the major European leagues.
Cynics will argue that it is just a stage-managed competition allowing some of the weaker FIFA confederation teams to play against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich and perhaps that is true to some extent. Real Madrid entered with their full squad at the semi-final stage and were paired with Mexican outfit Cruz Azul. The Mexicans had defeated Western Sydney Wanderers to earn the privilege of playing against the famous Spanish team and the players will probably remember the occasion for the rest of their lives.
The fact that Real Madrid have won every competitive game since losing to their city neighbours Atletico during early September will have added to the incentive for the Mexicans in beating the Australian team. The 4-0 winning scoreline for the whites of Real was immaterial but at least Cruz Azul prevented Cristiano Ronaldo from continuing his recent scoring spree.
As expected, the Saturday evening final involved Real Madrid playing the South American representatives San Lorenzo, conquerors of New Zealand team Auckland City in the semi-final but only after extra-time. Goals from Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale secure the trophy for the Spanish team in a 2-0 final victory with Ronaldo proving that he is human by failing to find the net for the second successive match.
Although the tournament does offer the opportunity for teams like Cruz Azul and Auckland City to play against better opposition, it can become a distraction for the major European teams especially when faced with travelling long distances to compete. Morocco is fairly close by comparison but it is possible that Japan may host the 2015 contest as has happened in previous years. That does raise the possibility of the Europeans lodging a complaint as to the viability of the tournament.