The 12th edition of the FIFA Club World Cup this week returns to its most prolific stage. Japan, indeed, will be hosting the competition for the seventh time.
The first was in 2005. Liverpool were the favourites to win it. Rafa Benitez’s squad featured Xabi Alonso, Harry Kewell and Steven Gerrard at the peak of his palatial powers, and had eased past Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 to reach the final. Their opponents in Yokohama were Sao Paulo. Rogerio Ceni had scored the winner in a 3-2 defeat of Al Ittihad in the semis.
Liverpool monopolised possession and registered 21 shots to Sao Paulo’s four. They could not, nevertheless, find a way past an exceptional Ceni, and Mineiro’s unanswered goal settled the game. In the same city in which he won the FIFA World Cup™ with Brazil, the Sao Paulo goalkeeper was duly named Man of the Match and seized the tournament’s adidas Golden Ball as its best player.
“It's a different sensation to winning the World Cup because I've been at this club for 15 years,” said Ceni afterwards. “It feels very special."
Ten years on, aged 42 and 23 years after his Tricolor Paulista debut, football highest-scoring all-time goalkeeper called time on his career. What a legend!