Mon, Dec 23, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Bayern conquer Club Cup to little fanfare in Europe

ANTI-CLIMAX:The predictable finish saw the German champs crush Raja Casablanca to claim their fourth title this year and seemingly confirm the contest’s sideshow status

Reuters and AP, MARRAKECH, Morocco

Bayern Munich’s Rafinha, second left, lifts the FIFA Club World Cup trophy with his teammates after beating Raja Casablanca in Marrakech, Morocco, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Bayern Munich swatted aside Raja Casablanca 2-0 in a one-sided FIFA Club World Cup final on Saturday that did little to boost the credibility of the tournament as this year’s edition struggled to an anti-climax.

In the event’s third-place game between Atletico Mineiro and Guangzhou Evergrande, Ronaldinho did little to stake his claim for a spot in Brazil’s FIFA World Cup squad in what may have been his last appearance on the international stage.

Although the 33-year-old scored from a superb free-kick to help rally Mineiro to a 3-2 win, his frustration cost the Brazilian side when he was red-carded in the 88th minute after retaliating against substitute Zhao Xuri by stamping on him moments before Luan scored the winner on the stroke of stoppage-time.

Like his team, Ronaldinho looked listless as the Copa Libertadores champions exited to become only the second South American champion to fail to reach the final.

In Morocco, Marrakech came to a standstill as an army of Raja fans traveled 250km to see the game, with Moroccan King Mohamed among the 37,000-strong crowd.

However, party-pooping Bayern wrapped the match up in less than half-an-hour to add to the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles they won last season and continue Europe’s dominance of the tournament.

European teams have won six of the past seven titles — with Brazilian side Corinthians interrupting the sequence last year — and Saturday’s stroll may reinforce the view that it the event is little more than a pleasant excursion for European sides before the winter break.

Bayern scored five goals without conceding any in their two games as they added to the two Intercontinental Cup titles they won in 1976 and 2001. They emulated Manchester United (in 1999) and Inter (in 2010) by winning a league, cup, Champions League and world club quadruple in the same year.

Still, Bayern boss Pep Guardiola was critical of his team for not creating more chances.

“We started well and played a very good half-hour, but after that we forgot to attack,” he said.

Guardiola, who won the Club Cup as coach of Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, said the credit lay with his predecessor, Jupp Heynckes, who led Bayern to the treble.

Raja, who changed coaches one week before the tournament, qualified as champions of Morocco rather than of Africa and had already stunned CONCACAF representatives Monterrey and Mineiro.

Yet a powerful Bayern, unbeaten in the Bundesliga since October last year, proved a bridge too far for a side who are ninth in their league.

“They were a little bit nervous because of the crowd and the presence of his majesty the King,” Raja coach Faouzi Benzarti told reporters.

Raja, the second team from outside Europe or South America to reach the final, were only briefly in the contest, with Bayern in almost complete control of possession.

Despite the resounding win, it is unclear whether the champions’ home continent took notice. The title of world’s best team seems to be revered around the world, but remains a sideshow in Europe.

“We are disappointed that there is not so much interest now when we are at the door of Europe,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter said. “I think there should be a little more attention to the competition.”

Bayer trumpeted the importance of the Club Cup, but it remains to be seen if their triumph changes perceptions, especially since the gulf between them and the rest of the contenders was significant.

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