Well then, is anybody surprised? Barcelona are through to the final of the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan after a routine 4-0 victory over Al Sadd. The Qatari side offered little resistance, and goals from Adriano (2), Seydou Keita and Maxwell ensured that the Blaugrana will face Santos on Sunday. However, the match will be remembered for the potentially season ending injury suffered by David Villa.
Pep Guardiola did not start with a full strength side, obviously with one eye on Sunday’s final, but prior to kickoff, everyone knew the result was a mere formality. Of course, I have the luxury of hindsight and if Al Sadd had won, I could have switched it round to say that we never really knew about the Qatari side, but being frank, I left my house this morning knowing that Barcelona were setting up a showdown with Santos.
This game was effectively pointless, although unlike some others, I like the premise of the competition itself, but there is a huge potential for disaster as we witnessed today. Al Sadd set out defensively, in every sense of the word. Often they had a flat-back four which was supplemented by another four defensive midfielders. They didn’t threaten on the counter and from the get-go it was clear that coach Jorge Fossati decided for damage limitation.
There was a hint of fortune about the first goal, but the build up play was decent. Andres Iniesta was pulling the strings in midfield, and he found Pedro in space on the left-wing, thanks mostly to the narrow defense. Pedro cut inside one challenge and tried to hang the ball up at the back post. His cross was sublime, but no-one was quite on the same wavelength so Al Sadd should have cleared it with ease.
For whatever reason, the defender decided to try and touch it back to his goalkeeper despite rules prohibiting the use of a backpass. This left Mohamed in a tough situation, and he couldn’t react quickly enough allowing Adriano to sneak in and touch the ball into the net. Worse of all for Al Sadd, this mistake was by Nadir Belhadj, who is at least their most famous defender, which often translates into the best...
Then came the incident. David Villa broke free of the defense, and tried to control a long ball over the top. In stretching for the ball, he enabled the two Al Sadd defenders to catch him up and this meant that he had to hold off two other players while stretching to try and control the still bouncing ball. Stretching with his left leg, he loses balance on his standing leg, mainly thanks to his momentum. Sparing the details, he lands on that left leg and the end result is that he fractured his tibia.
This means that Villa will be out for 4-6 months, and in the worst case this means that El Guaje misses the European Championships. However, there is also a possibility that he may return by the start of April. It all depends on the results of surgery and his post-op recovery. All that’s left to say is that we all wish David returns as soon as possible, with no ill-effects, and at least gets his chance to represent his national side in the summer.
Alexis Sanchez replaced the outgoing David Villa, and soon after Barcelona were celebrating a second goal. Again it was Adriano, this time he cut inside from the right to receive a pass before curling the ball into the bottom corner. That was the first half over, and it seemed awfully pointless for the teams to re-emerge given the circumstances.
Of course, this is football, and they did indeed reappear for the second half, although Al Sadd still could not muster the courage to go for broke. You might think that they had nothing to lose, but clearly they did as they stayed as defensive as ever. Barcelona were in control it was merely a question of how many they wanted to score. Lionel Messi was again the creator in this match, similar to his position in the Clasico and Keita was the benefit this time.
Messi slipped a ball through the middle of two defenders straight to the Malian who dinked the ball past the keeper in what must go down as a great finish by the midfielder. Often I berate Keita for his performances in holding midfield, but I remain a fan of the ex-Sevilla man when he is played in a normal central midfield role.
Maxwell rounded off the victory with his first of the season from a tight angle, but it was a completely pointless game, made even more frustrating by the number of injuries picked up in the process. Carles Puyol took a knock; Sanchez looked to injure himself as well, while we all know about Villa’s injury. Why can’t we just have a match between the Copa Libertadores winners and the Champions League winners from Europe?
Only one of the 10 finals have featured a club from outside of Europe and South America, and that was last season when TP Mazimbe reached the final, only to be brushed aside by Inter Milan. The prize money of $5 million will cover Villa’s wage during his time injured (assuming he is out for 24 weeks and earns €150,000 per week). What great news...
Man of the Match goes to Pedro as it always goes to Lionel Messi! Aside from that, Pedro was a constant threat on the left wing, which is just as well considering Villa’s injury. Onto Sunday and the highly anticipated final against Neymar’s Santos.