- Debutants Gremio take on Pachuca in the semi-finals on Tuesday
- Walter Kannemann played in the 2014 tournament, for San Lorenzo
- “It’s a tough competition and a really nice one to win”
Gremio’s press officer, Joao, had a joke for Walter Kannemann as the central defender sat down for a chat with FIFA.com. “The next interview in English!” he said, prompting the Argentinian player to reply: “If we win, I might just take you up on it.”
Kannemann is one of the defensive mainstays of the Brazilian side, who make their FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 debut against Mexico’s Pachuca on Tuesday.
The lowdown on Kannemann:
- Born in 1992 in Concepcion del Uruguay, an Argentinian city on the border with Uruguay and some 1000 km from the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, where he now lives.
- Position: central defender.
- A San Lorenzo youth product, he scored his first goal for the club in 2012. It was a crucial one too, as it prevented El Ciclon from being relegated directly to the second division. They would later win a relegation/promotion play-off against Instituto.
- Kannemann won the first of his two Libertadores with San Lorenzo and finished a runner-up at the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup following a 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the final.
- He went on to play for Atlas in Mexico before joining Gremio in 2016.
Kannemann and Gremio are still on a high following the club’s third Copa Libertadores win a few short days ago. And they have travelled to the United Arab Emirates hungry for more. “It’s not so much a case of feeling motivated as being happy at taking part in the tournament. We were crowned champions of South America a week/ten days ago and we know that this is a tough competition and a really nice one to win.”
Not even the fatigue Kannemann feels at the end of a long season can wipe the smile from his face. “There’s no mid-year break in Brazil and we’ve played more than 70 matches already,” he explained. “Playing in the Club World Cup is very important in South America though.”
The central defender and his team-mates are understandably keen for their tournament to get under way: “Every player and every fan dreams of being South American champions and then going on to try and win the world title.”
The challenges facing Gremio and Kannemann in the UAE
1. Arthur’s absence
One of the sensations of this year’s Libertadores, the young midfielder will miss UAE 2017 through injury. The Argentinian has every confidence in his team-mates however: “If there’s anything we’ve stood out for this year, then it’s the fact that we’re a team. Arthur wasn’t in the side when the Libertadores got under way. There were others in his place because they were playing better at the time. When it was his turn he played in the way everyone knows he can, and now he’s out of the side again. But we’ve got team-mates who are also very talented. We’re confident and relaxed in the knowledge that they’re going to be up to the job.”
2. Pachuca in the semi-finals
Kannemann is taking nothing for granted and only has praise for Los Tuzos: “Pachuca are a very good side. I’ve played in Mexico and I know what they’re capable of. They’re going to be tough opponents for us. We watched the match against Wydad and it was intense.”
“Playing extra time just makes you even more tired, but I had to go through it too when I played in the Club World Cup before. We had another game three or four days later, but players are very motivated in situations like that and they’re more than ready to do it.”
3. A chance for revenge against Real Madrid
“Pachuca is our Club World Cup final,” added the Argentinian, who refuses to think ahead to a possible repeat of his duel with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2014, when sparks flew.
“It might be a revenge match. But then again, it might not. All the teams here are very good and they all want to be in the final. If we’re lucky enough to go through and take on Real Madrid, it’s going to be a great way for us to find out how good we are and what we can achieve.” As another smile broke across his face, he added: “Every player wants to take on the winners of the UEFA Champions League, don’t they?”