The first semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 marks the entrance of FC Bayern Munchen. Waiting there for the reigning German and European champions are Guangzhou Evergrande FC, the holders of the AFC Champions League crown, who will be hoping to halt the tournament favourites in their tracks.
Guangzhou Evergrande FC-FC Bayern Munchen, Agadir Stadium, Tuesday 17 December, 19:30 (local time)
Asian champions Guangzhou head into the game in fine fettle having seen off Al-Ahly SC in the quarter-finals last Saturday, a victory that owed much to the performances of Dario Conca, Muriqui and Elkeson. Though visibly delighted with the contribution made by his South American trio, coach Marcello Lippi said he is expecting much more from them and is confident his team have the resources to trouble their mighty opponents.
Bayern are on the crest of a wave themselves, having extended their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to 41 matches and made sure they will top the table at the midwinter break with one round of games still to go. While Guardiola’s men suffered their first UEFA Champions League defeat in ten outings last week – a 3-2 reverse at home to Manchester City – the slip-up did not prevent them from winning their group. As far as the Bavarians are concerned, the Club World Cup is an opportunity to set the seal on a magnificent year that has already brought them four trophies. With that goal in mind, they have brought their strongest squad to Morocco, with only the injured trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Holger Badstuber missing the trip.
1 - This is the first FIFA Club World Cup for both Guangzhou and Bayern, though the Chinese have already acclimatised themselves with their defeat of Al-Ahly in Agadir. The last time the Germans took part in a global cup competition was in 2001, when they beat Boca Juniors in the Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo.
“We know that Bayern are one of the best teams in the world. We’d probably lose 99 out of 100 games against them, though maybe our one and only win will come in the semi-finals here. Our year started back on 5 January and most of my players have got 65 matches in their legs. There’s also the fatigue of the trip here to consider. They’re very tired, both mentally and physically, but facing Bayern is one of the biggest things a player can experience,” Guangzhou Evergrande FC coach Marcello Lippi.
“The Club World Cup is our final objective of the year. We’ve had a lot of success over the last 12 months and we want to end 2013 on a high note. These matches between the best clubs from each continent give us the chance to show that we really are the number-one side. That’s what we’re aiming for. As for our next opponents, we know that a lot of South Americans play for them,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.