How motivated a team are heading into a third-place game depends largely on the ambition of the side and the manner in which they got there. There is no denying that for a team with title aspirations, a bronze medal can prove scant consolation indeed. However, if the teams in question have come into the tournament looking to grow and improve, then a podium finish can be an historic achievement or even a turning point in the club's fortunes.
This is precisely the scenario for Mexico's Club America and Egypt's Al Ahly. When the pair cross swords on Sunday 16:20 at the Yokohama Stadium for third place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 , there is no doubt that they will be playing for pride as well as that coveted last-available place on the rostrum.
No one could deny that Club America have a point or two to prove after their resounding semi-final drubbing at the hands of Spain's Barcelona. Of course, there is no shame in losing to the European champions, but few at the club could have imagined the manner, or indeed margin, of their 4-0 defeat .
America coach Luis Fernando Tena was very clear on where his side stand now: "We know how important it is to finish third, so we'll be taking this game very seriously and going all out to win. That outcome would be great for everyone at the club and also for Mexican football, as it involves all of us. We have to show all our potential and leave a very good lasting impression. As I said, we really want third place."
As you would expect, Tena is working on a strategy that will get the most out of his squad for the game. "Our prime objective is to win, but we're going to try and give as many people a chance as possible, which could mean resting some of the more tired players," he explained. The Mexican media, meanwhile, have been trying to establish whether Nelson Cuevas, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Juan Mosqueda, one of the club's most promising youngsters, will form an attacking trident on Sunday. "Yes, there's a very good chance that those three will start," the coach revealed.
Tena was also prepared to give his thoughts on Al Ahly: "They're a pacy, well-organised side, with some very capable players up front. On top of that, they play with great focus and determination. To win this game, my team will need to have more possession, move the ball better and attack more consistently."
Unsurprisingly, the Mexican press have come down hard on the Eagles in the wake of their semi-final defeat. 'The dream becomes a nightmare' led the internet news site Ovaciones.com. "From bad to worse", said one contributor on El Universal.com, who asked their readers, 'How would you classify America's performance in Japan?' The answer was nothing if not emphatic, with 81% of voters opting for 'poor'. "We always care about what our fans feel and what they have to say," concluded Tena, who knows only too well the importance of giving the fans some festive cheer on Sunday.
All to win and nothing to lose
For Al Ahly, meanwhile, making the podium of a FIFA Club World Cup would be an historic achievement, as star striker and captain Mohamed Aboutrika explains: "I believe we've performed well here and on the whole have had a positive experience. However, before we start patting ourselves on the back, we have our third-place match, where we'll be trying to overcome Club America."
The Egyptian side, who have played neat but at times cautious football in Japan, will have to add more penetration to their forward play if they are to make a breakthrough outside of their continent. Most encouragingly for the club has been the potential shown by such key players as Brazilian striker Flavio, midfielder Mohamed Shawky and defender Emad El Nahas.
In his parting statement, Al Ahly's Portuguese coach Manuel Jose left no one in doubt about the club's ambition, saying: "I'm satisfied that we've shown how competitive an African team can be, but now I want my players to really believe in themselves and go on and beat America. Third place would be a historic feat and we're fired up to go out and get it."