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When underdogs upset the old order
Club World Cup has been dominated by European and South American sides
Nonetheless, several unfancied sides have caused major upsets over the years
We look back at some of the finest exploits of these ‘lesser lights’
Teams representing Europe and South America have enjoyed unbroken dominance at the FIFA Club World Cup. In the 16 editions to date, the winners have always been either the UEFA or CONMEBOL champions, with the representatives of the two continents facing each other in 12 of those finals. That said, the tournament has had its share of upsets and David versus Goliath moments. On five occasions, less fancied teams that were not expected to feature prominently made it to the final or podium.
brings you their stories.
Mazembe make their mark
As African champions for the second year running, TP Mazembe headed to the United Arab Emirates determined to make amends for their lamentable sixth-place finish the previous year. Despite having their best player, Treasure Mputu, suspended,
prevailed against Mexico’s Pachuca in the second round (1-0), before seeing off Brazilian giants Internacional in some style (2-0) to set up a dream final against an Inter Milan side featuring Samuel Eto'o. And while
proved too strong in the decider (3-0), Mazembe had the distinction of becoming the first non-European or South American club to reach the final. To add further gloss to their achievement, Dioko Kaluyituka took the adidas Silver Ball back to Congo DR.
Raja stun Ronaldinho & Co
Three years after TP Mazembe’s exploits, another African club made it all the way to the final. Raja Club Athletic’s feat was arguably even more impressive, having only qualified for the tournament by virtue of being Moroccan league champions. As such, the Casablanca outfit had to face Auckland City in the first round, only prevailing thanks to a last-minute goal from Abdelilah Hafidi (2-1). The second round was harder still, with the Green Eagles needing extra time to see off Mexico’s Monterrey (2-1). However, the best was yet to come in the form of a 3-1 semi-final defeat of an Atletico Mineiro side containing Ronaldinho in front of jubilant fans at the Stade de Marrakech. Just like TP Mazembe, the Moroccan giantkillers fell at the final hurdle, in their case going down 2-0 to European champions Bayern Munich, with Franck Ribery at his best. And while the Frenchman was the deserved recipient of the adidas Golden Ball, Raja had the consolation of seeing their striker Mouhcine Iajour, scorer of two goals, pick up the Bronze Ball.
Auckland's moral victory
While Auckland City ruled the roost for many years in Oceania, the New Zealanders were often overpowered by bigger clubs on the world stage. Often, but not always. After a historic win (3-2) against TP Mazembe in the match for fifth place in 2009, the Navy Blues went one better in 2014 by gracing the podium. Their epic run in Morocco saw them first triumph over Moghreb Tetouan (0-0; 4-3 PSO) and then ES Setif (1-0). They then pushed Argentinian heavyweights San Lorenzo all the way in the semi-final (2-1 a.e.t.), before winning the match for third place against Mexico’s Cruz Azul (1-1, 4-2 PSO). The achievement was all the more remarkable given the club’s semi-professional status and an ambitious strategy that favoured a passing game over their normal direct style. "I'm very proud of what we've achieved. We didn't lose a single game in regulation time, and we deserved third place because we were fantastic from start to finish. These players were the moral victors of this World Cup," said Ramon Tribulietx, Auckland’s Catalan coach
Colombians crushed by Kashima
After a laboured 2-1 win over Auckland in the opening round, very few expected Kashima Antlers to reach the final of the 2016 Club World Cup. Having only secured their place by winning the J.League days before the tournament, the Japanese club, playing a high-tempo, technical game, followed up with impressive wins over Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa (2-0) and Colombia’s Atletico Nacional (3-0). Kashima even went 2-1 ahead in the final against Real Madrid thanks to a double by adidas Bronze Ball winner Gaku Shibasaki, before suffering at the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo, who equalized on the hour then sealed victory with two more strikes in extra time (4-2 a.e.t).
Al-Ain rock River
Two years later, it was Real who once again dashed the dreams of a huge underdog in the final, this time seeing off Al Ain 4-1. The UAE league champions, who were flying the flag for the host nation, began their heroic odyssey by coming from three goals down against Team Wellington in the first round (3-3, 4-3 PSO.) The Emirati club then kicked on with an emphatic victory over Esperance Tunis (3-0), before eliminating mighty River Plate in an epic semi-final (2-2, 5-4 PSO).
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2019/20 an astonishing season for the Bavarians
Five titles in six months
A simplified description of Bayern Munich’s 2019/20 season reads as follows: records, records and more records. The Bavarians set benchmark after benchmark during the 56th Bundesliga campaign and crowned the season with a historic achievement by winning a treble comprised of Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League trophies for the second time after first doing so 2013. Not only that, they went on to add two more pieces of silverware to their collection with domestic and European Super Cups. Bayern are aiming to turn that quintuple into a sextuple at the beginning of February at the
. We take a look back on an unbelievable year for the record German champions.
Hansi Flick takes charge
Bayern’s course was arguably set when they appointed Hans-Dieter ‘Hansi’ Flick as head coach. Prior to that the 55-year-old had been assistant to Niko Kovac, who was dismissed following a 5-1 defeat away to Eintracht Frankfurt at the start of November 2019.
Seven months after Flick took the reins, Bayern lifted the league title for an eighth successive year, sealing the championship with a win away to Werder Bremen on Matchday 32 with two games to spare. Flick has led his side to victory in 88 per cent of all Bundesliga matches contested since his appointment (21 of 24), giving him the best winning ratio of any coach in the league’s history. Robert Lewandowski hit 34 goals to finish as Bundesliga top scorer for a fifth time, all in the last seven seasons. Gerd Muller is the only other player ever to have earned the top scorer’s accolade on at least five occasions, doing so seven times.
The DFB-Pokal came next, with Bayern beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 at the start of July to lift the trophy for the 20th time. David Alaba gave Bayern the lead with a direct free-kick before Serge Gnabry doubled their advantage shortly afterwards. Manuel Neuer teed up Lewandowski to make it 3-0 with a long-range strike, and although Sven Bender pulled a goal back for Leverkusen with a header from a corner, Lewandowski put the outcome beyond all doubt with a late fourth.
UEFA Champions League
Flick’s side had a flawless record in Europe in 2019/20, winning all 11 of their games and scoring 43 goals while conceding just eight – an unprecedented achievement in the competition’s history. The finals tournament in Lisbon was effectively a victory parade for Bayern, who humiliated Barcelona with a historic 8-2 thrashing in the quarter-finals before defeating Paris Saint-Germain in 1-0 in the final. Kingsley Coman became known as Bayern’s ‘Mr. Lisbon’ after the Frenchman scored a 59th-minute header from Joshua Kimmich’s cross in a hard-fought title-decider on 23 August 2020. Manuel Neuer subsequently made some spectacular saves to preserve his side’s lead and help seal the club’s sixth European triumph. “They had an unfair advantage: Manuel was in top form and has elevated goalkeeping to a new level,” said then PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel afterwards of the Bayern captain’s performance. The victory was the German side’s 21st consecutive win in all competitions.
After a short summer break, Bayern won their next title in their first competitive outing of the new season by beating league runners-up Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in Munich to seal their eighth German Supercup triumph. Corentin Tolisso put the hosts ahead early on in a game played behind closed doors, before Thomas Muller extended their lead just after the half-hour mark. However, Julian Brandt pulled a goal back for Dortmund shortly before the interval and Dortmund’s star striker Erling Haaland equalised early in the second half. Yet Bayern emerged victorious once again thanks to Kimmich’s 82nd-minute winner, the Germany international scoring as he fell to the ground to ensure his side earned their next trophy at the expense of their long-standing rivals.
European Super Cup
The Champions League holders eventually got the better of their UEFA Europa League counterparts Sevilla in extra time of an intense and hard-fought European Super Cup. Substitute Javi Martinez scored the winner in the first half of extra time to hand Bayern a 2-1 victory. “I always try to give 100 per cent and give everything I’ve got whenever I play for Bayern ,” said Martinez afterwards. “I showed that today. I always want to help the team, and I did so with a goal today. It’s a dream.” Lucas Ocampos had initially put Sevilla ahead with a 12th-minute penalty, which Leon Goretzka later cancelled out. Incidentally, Martinez also scored the winning goal in Bayern’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the 2013 European Super Cup.
The Best 2020
were also dominated by Bayern – or at least the men’s prizes were. Lewandowski and Neuer respectively picked up The Best Men’s Player and The Best Men’s Goalkeeper honours, while Flick was in the final three for The Best Men’s Coach. Furthermore, in Lewandowski, Thiago (now of Liverpool), Alphonso Davies and Kimmich, four Bayern players were included in the
FIFA Club World Cup
The Club World Cup Qatar 2020 will take place from 1-11 February 2021 in Doha, where Bayern are aiming to take possession of the crown for the first time since 2013. European clubs have had that honour 12 times since the inaugural competition in 2000, while teams from South America have done so on four occasions. Which confederation will win it for the last time in its current format? The final will be held at the on 11 February. The complete match schedule is available for download
. The draw to determine the match pairings will take place on 19 January 2021 at 16:00 CET in Zurich.
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For coach Hansi Flick, winning in Qatar would cap a fantastic season
A win at the FIFA Club World Cup 2020™ would see Hans-Dieter Flick and Bayern Munich make history by becoming only the second team after Barcelona (in 2009) to win all six domestic and international titles up for grabs in one season. And yet despite the enormity of the occasion, the coach says that he does not feel under any particular pressure. "It’s always the case at Bayern Munich that you want to have the most successful season possible,” said Flick, “and after the treble, you’re obviously looking at the FIFA Club World Cup. We’re quite simply motivated to win something else, so we’re all obviously really looking forward to the Club World Cup." The record German league winners will get their campaign under way on 8 February in the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar. The draw that was made on Tuesday 19 January in Zurich pitted them against whoever comes through the quarter-final between last season’s league champions in the host nation Al Duhail SC (Qatar) and the CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly SC (Egypt). Flick has four players in his ranks who know what it takes to win , with captain and current , FIFA World Cup™ winners Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng, and Austria’s David Alaba all part of the successful 2013 campaign for the club. Back then, Pep Guardiola was in charge when Bayern won the final in Morocco 2-0 courtesy of goals from Thiago and Dante. According to Flick, everyone had a positive experience of that victorious tournament. "All of them, including Hermann Gerland, who was already on the coaching staff back then, said that it's quite simply a wonderful event and that it’s fun to take part in it, pure and simple. And if we can have the same success that they did in 2013, then that will make it a whole lot of fun and a unique event, which is exactly the kind of experience we’re looking to have this year with the team."
A Club World Cup brings together not merely the best teams in a particular continent, but the cream of club football from all around the world – something that the Bayern coach was quick to underline. "I know what it’s like from working with the national team. At European Championships, or for us in the Champions League, you always play European teams. Coming up against South American, Asian or African sides is always a little bit different in terms of the mentality of your opponents. On the one hand, as I’ve just said, it’s the mindset and the way the players are set up, but you also come across the occasional new concept as regards the way you imagine and eventually play the game. "From that point of view, I’m really looking forward to seeing and analysing what the tournament has to offer and maybe picking up some fresh ideas. This is why it’s always really special when you get a global perspective on something and get to play against the best teams in the world."
As UEFA representatives, Bayern are automatically one of the tournament favourites. A look back at the roll of honour shows that clubs from the Old Continent have already enjoyed a great deal of success. The last time a non-European side came out on top was all the way back , when Corinthians from Brazil defeated Chelsea in Japan. Since then, Bayern (2013), Real Madrid (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018) Barcelona (2015) and Liverpool (2019) have all taken home the title, and Bayern will be hoping to add to that list by winning the final, to be held on 11 February in Education City Stadium. "We're hoping and aiming to win the tournament, but as is always the case, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves,” said Flick. “First off, we want to – and we have to – win our semi-final. We’re obviously hopeful of making it to the final – it’s our goal but it’s also our duty to get that far. We’ll be doing everything we can to prepare in the best way possible to realise our ambitions. But first and foremost we have to do our jobs, and then we can see whether we’ve earned ourselves a reward." (
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A world first for the new millennium
The first ever FIFA Club World Cup was held in 2000
16 tournaments so far with 10 different winners
Club World Cup 2020 to take place from 1 to 11 February
In around three weeks’ time, the FIFA Club World Cup 2020™ will be held in Qatar. We already know six of the seven participants, and you can see the full list of matches
. The draw to decide the match pairings will take place on 19 January 2021 at 16:00 CET in Zurich, with everyone keen to find out who will succeed Liverpool and lift the most prestigious trophy in world club football. Around 13 months ago, the Reds finished off 2019 with a win over Rio de Janeiro giants Flamengo to claim the Club World Cup, but they will not be able to defend their title. Last summer, Bayern Munich won the UEFA Champions League and now have the chance to add a second Club World Cup to their trophy cabinet after their 2013 success. Since the tournament was first created in 2000, European clubs have triumphed on 12 occasions, with four South American winners. Which confederation is going to come out on top in Qatar as the tournament is held for the final time in its current format?
New beginnings in 2000
The battle for the world club crown first started in 2000. The FIFA Club World Cup in Brazil was the first international football tournament of the new millennium. It was a courageous move to globalise club football, and a perfect opportunity to enjoy a unique display of so many highly-talented footballers all at once. Eight clubs from the four corners of the globe headed to the warm climes of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, to the country that many consider to be the beating heart of football. Among the big names taking part were record European Cup/Champions League winners Real Madrid, as well as Manchester United, who had just bagged the Champions League trophy. The Premier League side, who had won the treble in the 1998/99 season, even pulled out of defending their FA Cup title to face off against the best that the world had to offer in the land of samba and Carnival.
Inaugural Club World Cup winners
In the end, it was the two Brazilian teams – Vasco da Gama from Rio and Corinthians from Sao Paulo – who met in the final. And after a tactical battle that remained goalless for 120 minutes, it was Corinthians who emerged victorious 4-3 on penalties. Prior to the final, they had drawn with Real Madrid and defeated Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia and Raja Casablanca of Morocco in the first round. With their star-studded line-up including Vampeta, Freddy Rincon, Edu, Dida and the incomparable Edilson – they then edged the final to record a well-deserved win in front of 73,000 fans at the legendary Maracana Stadium in Rio.
Europe begins to take over
There was then a four-year wait before the next tournament was held, in Japan in 2005. And as was the case in the opening edition of the tournament, it was a team from Brazil who took the title, this time Sao Paulo. Twelve months later, Internacional de Porto Alegre completed the Brazilian treble, but apart from another win for Corinthians in 2012, every other name on the trophy has been from Europe. The record-holders are Real Madrid with four wins, ahead of their Spanish rivals Barcelona on three and Corinthians with two. Seven other teams have also won the title, including Bayern Munich, who are in action again this year. And as for the top scorer in tournament history, that is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Results by confederation
Last year's final
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