Corinthians defeated Chelsea 1-0 on Sunday to become FIFA Club World champions. Here are five observations from the game in Yokohama.
If FIFA want the competition to be taken seriously in Europe, and treated as more than a semi-exhibition match, the proper laws of the game should apply. Why did it take until the 57th minute for referee Cuneyt Cakir to produce a yellow card? Frank Lampard was lucky to escape a caution as early as the fourth minute for bringing down Ralf, while the otherwise impressive Ramires should definitely have gone into the book for a crude lunge on Emerson later in the half. Goalscorer Paolo Guerrero's 25th minute dive was an obvious attempt to win a penalty but again escaped censure, while there were several other examples of blatant cynicism going unpunished throughout the match. This game is supposed to decide the best club side in the world. Shouldn't we also have proper refereeing?
A large section of the Chelsea support has already made it clear that they do not want Rafa Benitez anywhere near their club. His substitutions in the final will hardly have endeared him to the Blues' hostile fanbase. Why replace right-back Branislav Ivanovic with right-back Cesar Azpilicueta when his side was chasing the game in the 83rd minute? Why take so long to introduce Oscar when it was clear Chelsea had lost their way in the second-half? Why leave striker Daniel Sturridge on the bench? This appeared a combination of the conservative tactics Benitez is renowned for, coupled with a lack of desire to actually bring this trophy home.
Pace Not Everything
Corinthians pressed Chelsea well throughout and also retained possession, but their game lacked pace. In a modern game dominated by speed it was refreshing to see technical ability win the day. When the ball was played into a Corinthians attacker or midfielder, it generally stuck.
South Americans Care More
A few seconds before the final whistle blew, the Corinthians bench could be seen jigging with delight and they erupted at full time, demonstrating just what this game means to South Americans. For Brazilian sides, this is the one chance they get all year to pit their wits against European opposition in a competitive match, and they always approach the game with the utmost professionalism. Chelsea looked miffed at the final whistle, but one had the impression that beating Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday was more of a priority.
Why No Replay?
I accept FIFA want to project a certain image of the game, one that is clean and without controversial incident but can they really justify not showing a replay of Gary Cahill's kick on Emerson? The off the ball incident earned Cahill a straight red card late on in Yokohama but by the end of the game it was still unclear what he'd been sent off for. Afterwards Cahill criticized Emerson for provocation and then feigning injury, but for those poor souls constructing match reports, it was impossible to know what had happened.
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