Barcelona and Santos won their respective matches at the FIFA Club World Club in Toyota and Yokohama, Japan to bring about the long awaited final on Sunday. In the first semifinal both international powerhouses beat inferior competition as Santos won convincingly over Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 and Barcelona easily beat Qatar’s Al Sadd Sports Club 4-0.
What is to be taken from these warm up matches? First, notice Neymar’s beautiful goal in Santos’ victory, one he obviously worked for and then celebrated with a certain “this is a message” reaction. The message was being sent to a certain someone in Barcelona and it said Neymar is here and ready. Second, notice Messi’s attempted bicycle kick off a ricocheted missed attempt at goal. Pretty spectacular attempt! One might almost say that after his beautiful assist in Barcelona’s victory he was looking to up the ante, or perhaps lobby voters of the FIFA Goal of the Year. He’s also competing for that honor with that same guy, Neymar. See ya Sunday, says Messi.
So now we have a match for top club team in the world honors. There is no doubt that even without the services of David Villa Barcelona is the better team. The Spanish team’s defense and midfield are superior and with Pedro and Sanchez hooking up with Messi their attack is superb. Santos counters with Ganso, Henrique, and Elano in midfield, nothing if not a world class bunch. And then there is the in-form Borges, the striker who is at the top of the goal scoring table in Brazil’s domestic championship with 23 goals. Pique and Puyol will have their hands full.
Finally, there is also no doubt that if Neymar wants to make one last global splash before negotiating his ultimate move to Europe, this is the stage he wants to cannonball into. So what can we expect at Yokohama in the early morning hours on Sunday?
First, Barcelona should win and do so if not with ease then with a showing that proves who is who in the world club rankings. But Santos is no pushover and on an inspired day could cause the Catalans some grief and even pull off the upset if the stars align well. Expect Neymar to be the provider of that grief. I anticipate a one to two goal margin of victory and the winning goal will be scored after the match is tied. I also expect Messi will have more than his usual contribution in this game since he will be looking to eclipse any other stars on the pitch.
See ya Sunday guys.