Atletico Mineiro and Guangzhou Evergrande will be aiming to do more than just save face after heavy semi-final defeats as they battle it out for third place in the FIFA Club World Cup. For both teams it is also the chance to give a good send-off to individuals who played a key role in getting them to the competition: Cuca and Conca, respectively.
Guangzhou Evergrande-Atletico Mineiro, Marrakech Stadium, Saturday 21 December, 16:30 (local time)
Cuca will coach Atletico for the last time after two and a half years at the helm. He overcame tough times before building a winning team that made history by conquering the club’s first Copa Libertadores. Curiously, the Brazilian is leaving to coach one of Guangzhou’s traditional rivals in China, Shandong Luneng. For the downcast Atletico, who had real aspirations of triumphing in the competition, the goal is now to avoid further disappointment and a fourth-place finish, which would be the worst ever performance by a Brazilian team. Internacional’s third place in 2010 is the poorest result by a club from their homeland so far.
Going in the opposite direction is Conca, who leaves China to return to Brazil and Fluminense. In two and a half years in Asia the Argentinian helped turn Guangzhou into a domestic powerhouse, winning three national championships and being voted the best player in China in 2013. He did not disappoint in the Club World Cup either, scoring the all-important winning goal against Al-Ahly in the quarter-finals. Conca will now attempt to help his team equal the best performance by an Asian side in the competition. Another player who will be highly motivated is Brazilian Muriqui, who comes up against former club Atletico, where he spent part of 2010 on loan before embarking for China.
21 –The number of goals Ronaldinho has now scored at FIFA tournaments. The Brazilian’s goal against Raja Casablanca was his latest, and he remains the only player in history to have found found the net in every one of FIFA’s official tournaments. His 21 goals break down as follows: two in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 1997, three in the FIFA U-20 World Cup 1999, nine in the FIFA Confederations Cup (six in 1999 and three in 2005), three in the Olympic Football Tournament (one in 2000 and two in 2008), two in the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ and two in the Club World Cup (one in 2006 and one in 2013).
“Just being here and playing against some of the game’s biggest stars is a triumph for us. We have to show how Chinese football has improved. We’ve got to a level that a lot of people thought we would never reach, and now we’re here at the World Cup sharing a pitch with the best teams in Europa and America. It has been a worthwhile experience and we want to end it by winning third place,” Guangzhou Evergrande forward Muriqui.
“We have to learn from defeats and take the lessons on board. We have to lift our heads because we're fighters. Of course, the disappointment will be with us for some time, because we were desperate to win and play the final, to perhaps give our fans another trophy to celebrate. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but I’m sure better days will come,” Atletico Mineiro forward Fernandinho.