Real Madrid turn winning run into a world title( 21 Dec 2014

The praise heaped on Real Madrid by the team’s FIFA Club World Cup rivals before the tournament turned out to be justified. The hot favourites more than lived up to expectations in Morocco by winning their fourth trophy of 2014, making this the most successful calendar year in the club’s history.

The ruthless manner in which Madrid brushed the opposition aside may have had a familiar look to it – after all, Carlo Ancelotti’s men had conquered Europe in May by winning the UEFA Champions League for the tenth time. But the team’s current 22 game winning streak, the most recent of which came with a 2-0 victory over San Lorenzo in the final, has taken Los Merengues to another level. Madrid, who disappointed at their last appearance at the Club World Cup in 2000, will now make sure the trophy takes pride of place in the Santiagao Bernabeu cabinet.

“It’s a fitting end to an unforgettable year. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and delighted with our performances. For me, Real Madrid are the best team in the world,” said Ancelotti who, after winning the Club World Cup in 2007 with Milan, is now a two-time world club champion.

But while the manager is entitled to enjoy his team’s success, he is also already thinking about the future. “I’m proud to say that I have a very professional, serious and focused group of players to work with. I’d be delighted if we could repeat what we’ve achieved this year.”

It would take a brave man to bet against it. With a talented, versatile squad, Madrid showed how dangerous they are once again in Morocco, even though their biggest star did not find the net. This season’s top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score in the wins over Cruz Azul (4-0) and San Lorenzo, but still managed to play a key role in his team’s triumph. And as proof of the team’s versatility, it was a central defender who scored the decisive goals.

Plaudits and records
Sergio Ramos set Madrid on the road to victory in both the semi-final and the final, thanks to the same strength, determination and positional awareness he displayed when scoring the dramatic late equaliser in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. The adidas Golden Ball award he received after the tournament was a fitting reward for this goalscoring defender’s heroics.

“It has been a really memorable year for me, and I’m delighted to have been able to contribute goals in important matches. It’s the happiest phase of my life, both on a personal and professional level,” said Ramos. “I can’t ask for much more than this, but tomorrow I’ll start to think about our next trophy. We know this team can keep on achieving great things.”

In terms of making history, Real, who have now equalled Milan’s record of four World and Intercontinental Cup wins, a number of players had special reason to celebrate: Iker Casillas, as the only survivor from the team that came fourth in 2000; Toni Kroos, the midfield colossus and provider of the passes for Ramos’ goals, who won his third world title in 12 months; and Cristiano Ronaldo, who after winning the Club World Cup with Manchester United in Japan in 2008, becomes one of the few players to have won the trophy with two different teams. And the incredible achievements of this team may be just beginning.

No surprises
Not only did Real Madrid’s triumph in Morocco represent the climax of the club’s phenomenal current run, but it also confirmed the recent domination of European sides in the tournament. It was the seventh win in 11 editions for the UEFA representatives, and the third time an Argentinian team has been defeated in the final. After overcoming modest Auckland City in the semi-final with a 2-1 extra time win, San Lorenzo could not repeat the heroics that won them the Copa Libertadores.

Still, the team showed great courage against a side which even the San Lorenzo players had described as “the best in the world” before the tournament. “We knew it’d be a very tough game but we didn’t fall far short. We made a couple of errors [for Madrid’s two goals] and you can’t afford a single moment of carelessness against a team like this with players of this class,” said Leandro Romagnoli after the final.

But even if the champions made fulfilling their role as favourites look easy, the Club World Cup in Morocco hardly lacked surprises and great stories. The biggest shock of all was undoubtedly provided by New Zealand’s Auckland City, who, after numerous unsuccessful appearances at the tournament, finally earned their place in history.

Tremendously improved on previous years, the semi-professional team led by Catalan coach Ramon Tribulietx recorded confident victories over Moghreb Tetouan and ES Setif, gave an organised, skilful display against San Lorenzo in the semi-final, and eventually claimed an improbable third place after overcoming Cruz Azul on penalties.

Nor was Auckland’s success the result of the team riding its luck. “I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. We didn’t lose a single game [in normal time], and we deserved to come third because we were fantastic from start to finish. These players are the real moral winners,” said Tribulietx.

Despite coming from a country accustomed to a more direct style of play, the impact of Auckland’s tactical innovations were clearly visible: the team made headlines around the world, and the players are guaranteed an unprecedented welcome back home. No one will underestimate this team in future tournaments.

Historic moments 
According to midfielder Christian Gimenez, there was a sense of shame associated with Cruz Azul’s fourth place finish in Morocco. Although the team started the tournament well enough, in the end they could not avoid another frustrating campaign for Mexico’s representatives at the Club World Cup.

Still, at least the team provided one of the most memorable images of the competition during their victory over Western Sydney Wanderers. After putting his team ahead in extra-time in a match played in pouring rain, Hugo Pavone dived chest first into one of the many puddles on the waterlogged pitch in Rabat. “It was like being a child again. When it rained, the best way to celebrate was always to dive into a puddle.”

The striker’s joy that day came in sharp contrast to the disappointment of the Wanderers players. After the fairy tale of winning the AFC Champions League in 2014, two defeats sent the young Australian side home early. At least they managed to score two great goals in the Match for Fifth Place: one by Romeo Castelen, and the other by Vitor Saba, whose terrific free kick brought to mind Ronaldinho’s goal in last year’s competition. The similarity was no coincidence: the Brazilian spent six months watching Ronaldinho practicing free-kicks when he played for Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro. “I picked up a few tricks,” he joked.

In the same game, ES Setif provided African fans with one of their few happy memories of the tournament by claiming fifth place. While Abdelmalik Ziaya scored a marvellous goal, driving a bouncing ball into the top corner, it was goalkeeper Sofiane Khediairia who ultimately emerged as the hero during the penalty shoot-out. Unlike 2013, when Raja Casablanca caused a sensation by reaching the final, the African representatives did not have much cause to celebrate in 2014.

Or perhaps they did. Even though Morocco’s Moghreb Tetouan also failed to impress, the number of white shirts and flags in the stands showed that the fans in Marrakech had adopted Real Madrid as the newest local team. “The support we received from the fans was a pleasant surprise. We felt at home,” said Carlo Ancelotti. After that, all he and his players had to do was what they have become very good at doing – win a title, and play some great football. It is becoming something of a habit for this Real Madrid team.

The Stats
Teams: 7
When: 10-20 December, 2014
Final: Real Madrid 2 v 0 San Lorenzo
Games: 8
Goals: 20 (average of 2.5 per game)
Total attendance: 228,021 (average of 28,503 per game)

Kroos: Beautiful end to sensational year( 21 Dec 2014

Mission accomplished. Thanks to their win over San Lorenzo in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014, Real Madrid picked up one of the few pieces of silverware not already in their packed trophy cabinet. One of the key men inLos Blancos’ success, Germany international Toni Kroos pulled the strings in midfield with aplomb, as well as supplying the corner for Sergio Ramos’ vital headed opener.

Fresh from clinching his second major global title of the year, having lifted the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with his country in July, Kroos spoke exclusively to in Marrakech. Toni, how much does it mean to Real Madrid and to you to have won the FIFA Club World Cup?Toni Kroos: It’s a fantastic title to round off the year. It’s not easy to get this far, because you have to win the Champions League first. I was fortunate enough to win this trophy last year with Bayern Munich and now I’ve won it again, which doesn’t happen often, so it’s a beautiful end to a sensational year.

Real Madrid have now put together an incredible run of 22 consecutive wins in competitive games. What has made the team so strong this season?
The level of motivation that we dig out for every new challenge. We’re thirsty for wins and silverware. I’m talking domestically too, as Madrid have gone a couple of seasons without winning La Liga and so we’re certainly aiming to finish top of the pile this time. Of course, it’s logical that we’ll lose a game at some point, but the most important thing is to keep working hard and not get carried away.

You only signed for Madrid six months ago but you look like you’ve been playing for them your whole life. Did you expect to settle so quickly?
To be honest I’m not totally surprised, as I’ve got a lot of belief in my own ability.

What do you see as your role within the team?
I’ve got my job to do, as have the other ten players who take the field with me. When I’m out on the pitch, I try to do everything that the coach wants from me as best as I possibly can. Given that I play in the middle of the park, as you’d expect I try to exert as much control over the game as I can. And up to now, things have been going wonderfully.

What are your goals for 2015? Madrid look well-placed to become the first team ever to win successive UEFA Champions League crowns…
We’re aiming to win every competition that we take part in but, at the same time, we’re aware of the difficulty involved. Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are our biggest rivals in La Liga and it’s more of the same in the Champions League, where you’ve also got the likes of Chelsea or Bayern. It’s going to be a very, very tough year but we’re excited about it too. We’re in a really rich vein of form right now and we’re going to try and stay on the same track. That said, it definitely won’t be easy.

Romagnoli: We ought to have gone for it more( 21 Dec 2014

He ended the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014 with tears in his eyes and yet, though disappointment was still etched on the face of Leandro Romagnoli when attending the media post-game, the San Lorenzo skipper clearly knew he and his team-mates had given everything they could in the 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid.

And having been thrown into the fray as a 57th-minute sub, with his team already two down, there is no doubt El Pipi’s introduction brought about a marked improvement in El Ciclón’s play. Following the match, the 33-year-old schemer gave his views exclusively to What’s the feeling in the dressing room after putting in a solid display but not being able to come away with the win?Leandro Romagnoli: There’s a sense of sadness about not having achieved the objective we set ourselves when leaving Argentina, as well as not having been able to give all those people who’ve followed us over something to celebrate.

What was your verdict on the game?
We knew it’d be a very tough game but we didn’t fall very far short. We made a couple of errors [for Madrid’s two goals] and you can’t afford a single moment of carelessness against a team like this, with players of this class. In general terms though I think we put in a good performance, but we could have done with keeping the ball better and creating a few more chances. We did better in the second half but it wasn’t enough.

Do you think that Real Madrid took their foot off the pedal after going 2-0 up?
Yes, I think that’s partly to do with it. They started to drop back, cede ground to us and play a more counter-attacking style. For our part we tried to control possession more and we created the odd threat by shooting from distance, but it wasn’t to be.

Did you manage to narrow the gap that appeared to exist between the two teams on paper?
The first half was very tough. More than anything we were trying to keep them at bay, rather than trying to play ourselves. They had a few chances, which weren’t that clear-cut, but then they took advantage of our errors. We ought to have gone for it a bit more. We did towards the end but it was too late by then.

What’s your overall view on San Lorenzo’s historic first appearance at this tournament?
It’s been a lovely experience for all the players and the club, though we’re very sad that we didn’t win, as that’s what we all really wanted. All we can do is say a big ‘thank you’ to the people who’ve stuck by us all the way. Whenever we’re with them, we’re happy.

What’s the biggest positive you’ll take from Morocco 2014?
The level of commitment of this group of players. We never stopped trying to do our best.

Vicelich: Bronze is our gold( 21 Dec 2014

For modest Auckland City, who arrived in Morocco with little hope of success but go home as the tournament’s surprise package, the 11th FIFA Club World Cup will go down in history. And for team captain Ivan Vicelich, a bronze medal represents a fitting climax to a long career.

Despite successive disappointing campaigns at the Club World Cup, the 38-year-old veteran never lost hope. Instead, he grew more determined each year, as though he knew this Auckland side, led by Ramon Tribulietx, would be able to improve on previous performances. What he could never have imagined was how far the team could go. Auckland City have taken New Zealand football into uncharted territory.

After the penalty shoot-out win over Cruz Azul that clinched third place, Vicelich talked with about his delight at the team’s campaign and explained how, as well as making history, Auckland’s performances may bring about a revolution in Kiwi football. Before the tournament no one imagined that Auckland City could finish in third place. It must have been the perfect way to cap such a wonderful campaign.
Ivan Vicelich: It was. We’re thrilled to clinch third place at the Club World Cup. It’s a very special moment for a New Zealand club. We managed to recover from playing for 120 minutes in the semi-final, train well, and then give another strong performance. But we’re proud of everything we’ve achieved in the tournament, not just today’s game. We can say that we’ve made history.

Expectations weren’t high when the team arrived in Morocco, yet you almost reached the final. The players were visibly dejected after the semi-final defeat against San Lorenzo, so does that show just how well Auckland City did?
It’s true. We were indeed disappointed because we played well and felt we could have won the game. That’s pretty surprising when you think that we were up against San Lorenzo, the South American champions. We were disappointed, but as I said, we moved on quickly, and focused on making third place our goal. We took to the pitch today with the aim of winning a medal at a World Cup, and making this a really memorable campaign. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved.

What moments stood out for you in particular?
I think the way we played in all four games. We wanted to show the world that we could compete against the best, and we managed it. We did ourselves proud in each match, which is really important for a team from New Zealand. All the players and the coaching staff deserve to be congratulated. Nobody thought we’d get this far.

Can the way you played set an example for New Zealand football?
It’s difficult to think of it like that, because our style of play is the result of five or six years of hard work. It’s a different type of football to what you usually see in New Zealand, but we’ve shown that a fresh approach can work. It’s helped us not just to win games and trophies, but also to attract new players, and establish the club as a model for New Zealand football. We’re small, but we’re passionate about football, as are our fans. I hope that the example we’ve set will have a positive effect on the way football is played in the country, from the senior national side to the youth teams. There’s a really promising new generation of players coming through.

You have made headlines all over the world. What do you think the reception will be like when you return home?
It will be amazing. We received so much support from back home, from the media, the fans and our families. Football isn’t the most popular sport in New Zealand, but we’ve managed to put the game in the spotlight. Now it’s time to celebrate. It’s no small feat to win a medal in a tournament as important as this.

Have you thought about playing in the Club World Cup again, and trying to go even further?
Well, that’s another story. But we never thought we’d surpass 2009, when we finished fifth. Coming third is really amazing. It would be a dream to do this every year, but we know how hard it is.

You’re 38 now. What are your plans for the coming years?
To be honest the penny hasn’t really dropped yet. I’ll need some time to think about what lies ahead. I’ve been playing for a long time, and I’ve played many times for the national team too. At the moment, I’m just thinking about enjoying the moment. I know I can help by passing on my experience to the younger players, and being involved in the development of sport in New Zealand.

FIFA World Champions Badge honours Real Madrid’s impeccable year( 20 Dec 2014

By virtue of their success at the tournament in Marrakech on Saturday, Real Madrid were awarded the FIFA World Champions Badge for the first time, meaning that they are now officially part of the exclusive group of football teams who have had the right to wear the badge of honour on their competition jerseys.

After last year’s tournament, Bayern Munich were presented with the FIFA World Champions Badge, succeeding Brazilian club Corinthians, who had won the year before. Real Madrid will proudly wear the FIFA World Champions Badge throughout 2015 until a new champion claims the title next year.

The FIFA World Champions Badge
A series of FIFA World Champions Badges are awarded to the winners of each major FIFA event, with the FIFA World Champions Badge portraying both the respective tournament trophy and the year of the edition.

The first side to be presented with the FIFA World Champions Badge was the Italian men’s national team, after their victory at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, followed by Spain after their success in South Africa in 2010 and, most recently, by Germany, who earned the right to wear the badge of honour as the winners of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The badge is also worn by the Japanese women’s national team following their triumph at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™, while the most recent edition of the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2012 saw the Brazilian national team take the title, along with the first FIFA World Champions Badge to be handed over for that particular competition. The latest tournament to be introduced to this exclusive award was the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013, where reigning champions Russia were awarded the FIFA World Champions Badge.