Though Club America fought as hard as they could, a brace of Real Madrid strikes deprived them of a dream ticket to the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016. Pondering his side’s semi-final exit over a yerba mate infusion, the club’s Argentinian centre-half Paolo Goltz said: “If you switch off for a second against a team like that, they make you pay for it.”
In compiling their 2-0 win over the Mexicans, the European champions followed a script that has become familiar in recent times, as Goltz told FIFA.com: “The goals came at just the right time for them, on the stroke of half-time and then right at the end of the game. We knew we couldn’t make any mistakes and we paid for the two we did make.”
America have two days to get over their disappointment. Thursday’s defeat brought to an end an unbeaten run that stretched back to 18 September when Ricardo La Volpe took over as coach. The task now is to embark on another such run, and the players are intent on starting it in this Sunday’s match for third place at the International Stadium Yokohama.
Their opponents there will be Copa Libertadores champions Atletico Nacional, a team Goltz knows well. “I follow South American football closely,” said the 31-year-old defender. “There are a few of us in the team that keep tabs on the Copa Libertadores and we know a lot about Atletico Nacional and how they got here. We know their players well, and I wasn’t expecting their first match to turn out the way it did. Nacional created a lot of chances and didn’t put them away, while Kashima took theirs. It was a pretty strange and misleading result. They’re going to be very tough opponents.”
Las Águilas are determined to end the year in the best possible way, an objective that does not begin and end with Sunday’s encounter in Yokohama. For when they return home, America have a Mexican league play-off final to contest with Tigres, over two legs on 22 and 25 December.
“We want that third place and the league title,” added Goltz. “It would just put the finishing touch on the centenary year. We’ve got one more big game here and we’ve got those other matches when we get back to Mexico. We’re going to be utterly professional in preparing for them and we’re going to be totally focused and try to get another winning run underway.”
Goltz, who formed part of the Azulcrema side that lost in the first round at Japan 2015, said he felt they had atoned in part for that setback. “We didn’t have a great experience at all last year, but we’ve overcome some obstacles this time around," he said. "It’s a tough tournament to acclimatise to, what with the time change, the ball and the change in altitude for us. They’re not excuses but they are factors that have an impact. We’ve been able to handle them better this year and make it through to the second match. And what we’re looking for now is to finish third.”