Plane tragedy over­shad­ows Club World Cup

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Atletico Na­cional will play through their grief over the Chapecoense plane tragedy when they tackle the Club World Cup in Ja­pan-just days af­ter their Copa Su­damer­i­cana fi­nal op­po­nents were wiped out.

FIFA’s global club show­piece, which will also fea­ture Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s Real Madrid, be­gins this week un­der the shadow of the air crash that sent foot­ball into mourn­ing.

It prom­ises to be an emo­tional tour­na­ment for Colombia’s Na­cional, who were due to play Chapoc­oense for the Copa Su­damer­i­cana ti­tle be­fore the plane car­ry­ing the Brazil­ian team crashed en route to the fi­nal.

“Pain over­whelms our hearts and in­vades our think­ing in mourn­ing,” Na­cional wrote on their web­site. All but three Chapoc­oense play­ers died in the crash, which killed 71 peo­ple.

In trib­ute, the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores cham­pi­ons suc­cess­fully lob­bied South Amer­i­can foot­ball of­fi­cials to award the Copa Su­damer­i­cana to the stricken team. “For our part, and for­ever, Chapecoense are cham­pi­ons of the 2016 Copa Su­damer­i­cana,” stated the club’s web­site. Euro­pean giants Real will be favourites to win the tour­na­ment, which kicks off to­day and fea­tures foot­ball’s six con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­ons plus Ja­panese ti­tle-hold­ers Kashima Antlers.

But Ron­aldo’s Real will face the un­com­fort­able task of hav­ing to beat Na­cional, now the sen­ti­men­tal favourites, should both teams reach the De­cem­ber 18 fi­nal in Yoko­hama.

Na­cional could face South Africa’s Mamelodi Sun­downs, Kashima or New Zealand part-timers Auck­land City in the com­pe­ti­tion’s first semi-fi­nal in Osaka on De­cem­ber 14.

The Colom­bians, who claimed their sec­ond Copa Lib­er­ta­dores ti­tle in July, are look­ing to avenge an ex­tra-time de­feat by AC Mi­lan in the tour­na­ment’s fore­run­ner, the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup, in 1989. Their stingy de­fence kept nine clean sheets in a 14-game run to the South Amer­i­can ti­tle, and they play a tidy brand of foot­ball un­der coach Reinaldo Rueda. But book­mak­ers are firmly back­ing Spain’s Real.


Zine­dine Zi­dane’s ta­ble-top­pers will be with­out Gareth Bale as the Welsh wizard con­tin­ues to re­cover from an­kle surgery, but Real have been boosted by the re­turn of Toni Kroos ahead of their open­ing game on De­cem­ber 15.

Real face ei­ther Mex­ico’s Club Amer­ica or South Korea’s Jeon­buk Hyundai Mo­tors in the com­pe­ti­tion’s sec­ond semi-fi­nal in Yoko­hama.

Ron­aldo is­sued a warn­ing as Los Blan­cos go in search for their sec­ond Club World Cup ti­tle in three years af­ter lift­ing the tro­phy in 2014.

“It has been a per­fect year, with the Cham­pi­ons League and the Eu­ros,” said Madrid’s tal­is­man, who also led Por­tu­gal to Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship glory in July and has signed a new five-year deal stretch­ing to 2021.

“Now we have to win the Club World Cup. I want to win tro­phies, that’s why I want to stay at this club.”

Real pres­i­dent Florentino Perez has de­manded an­other in­ter­na­tional tre­ble.

“It would be a huge sat­is­fac­tion to win the three in­ter­na­tional ti­tles-the Cham­pi­ons League, UEFA Su­per Cup and Club World Cup,” he told AFP.

“We won them in 2014 and we will work to­wards win­ning the Club World Cup to do it again.”

Real, who beat Ar­gentina’s San Lorenzo 2-0 in the fi­nal two years ago, also won the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup in 1960, 1998 and 2002.

Plucky Auck­land will look to pro­duce an­other shock in their eighth ap­pear­ance in the tour­na­ment af­ter their col­lec­tion of truck driv­ers, clean­ers and zool­ogy stu­dents de­fied the odds to fin­ish third in 2014.

“The game against (Kashima) is go­ing to be tough, but our boys are well pre­pared and I’m look­ing for­ward to it,” said New Zealand in­ter­na­tional Clay­ton Lewis, ahead of to­day’s tour­na­ment-opener.

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