The stage is set for Sunday's grand final, with Japanese fans eager to see Boca Juniors and AC Milan, two of the most successful sides in international club football, not to mention this competition, battle it out for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007.
This Sunday's showdown will have even more resonance than usual, with the pair having met at the same stage in the competition only four years ago. On 14 December 2003, Boca and Milan contested the old Intercontinental (Toyota) Cup as champions of their respective confederations. The Rossoneri, then coached by Carlo Ancelotti, arrived as strong favourites to take the title, only to be confounded by Carlos Bianchi's Xeneize, who brought the trophy back to Argentina.
Revenge in the air?
A glance at the squad lists of both sides coupled with the events of that night in 2003 would suggest the Italians will be more anxious than usual heading into Sunday's game in Yokohama. All told, they have 12 survivors from that dramatic evening four years ago when lady luck deserted them in the penalty shoot-out.
One of the vanquished Rossoneri was Paolo Maldini. "We played a great game and were better than the Argentinians, but we didn't convert our chances and ended up losing on penalties," the team's talisman told FIFA.com.
The evergreen defender was not the only one being diplomatic ahead of the rematch. The Brazilian Cafu, for his part, was also refusing to hear talk of revenge. "I don't like to apply the term revenge to football. All I'm thinking about is how nice it would be to win the final, regardless of our opponent." Of a similar sentiment was Dutch international Clarence Seedorf, who was excited by the prospect of "winning another trophy, much more than facing Boca Juniors".
Of course, fans of the Italian club may see things a bit differently, as does Kaka, the Rossoneri's Brazilian idol. "I still recall the disappointment I felt after that game. It was a real body blow. Now, though, we have the chance to go back and make amends," he told FIFA.com. "I also believe that with so many Brazilians in the team, this will be a sort of Brazil-Argentina clash. I really want to win this one," added the midfielder.
In the Boca Juniors camp, in contrast, there are only two survivors from the 2003 final, one of which is the Colombian Fabian Vargas, who was on the bench that day. Unfortunately for Boca coach Miguel Russo, the midfielder is unavailable for the decider after being dismissed in Wednesday's semi against Etoile du Sahel. Vargas is a particularly big loss to the Xeneizes, having won this competition in 2003 and 2006, the latter while on loan with Brazil's Internacional.
One player who will be renewing acquaintances with the Italians is Sebastian Battaglia, although the Xeneize midfielder still has mixed feelings about that final: "I remember having to take a penalty in the shoot-out and missing it. It was all a bit surreal: the dejection of missing a spot-kick mixed with the joy of winning the game," he says. For all of that, he is quick to add that he would volunteer again if needed. "If I'm in the final and have the chance, I'll take another penalty kick. Anyway, I just hope Boca win. At the end of the day, that's all that matters."