As tough and uncompromising on the field as he is shy and retiring off it, Gennaro Ivan Gattuso is not one to leave unfinished business. The AC Milan midfielder is fully focused on winning the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007, and he took time out from his preparation to talk to FIFA.com.
"I'm satisfied with the way we started off the tournament," he said in an exclusive interview. "We knew that the semi-final would be very difficult, and that certainly proved to be the case, no doubt about it. We didn't know much about Urawa, and it was one of those matches where you really have to be focused. There are no easy games any more in today's football."
The Japanese side played a very compact, defensive formation which made the role of Milan's holding midfielders all the more pivotal. Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini and Gattuso had very few of their usual defensive duties to fulfil and spent most of their time feeding Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Alberto Gilardino.
The toughest part of such a match is often dealing with counter-attacks, and Rino and his team-mates made sure they were up to the task. "We missed so many chances that we ended up piling the pressure on ourselves. That's why we had to keep concentrating right up to the final whistle. We were glad when we finally made the breakthrough. Clarence's goal came as a great relief."
The only trophy missing from a packed cabinet
Gattuso was a great admirer of the great Gianni Rivera. "My father bleeds red and black just like me and I have enormous respect for skilful players. They're a pleasure to watch." Rino, on the other hand, is more of a combative team player, as his nicknames would suggest...
In Italy they call him Ringhio, the bulldog, while during his time at Rangers from 1997-1999, he earned the typically Scottish sobriquet Braveheart.
Gattuso has been a pivotal player at AC Milan for almost a decade now, and the lad from down south (Corigliano Schiavonea in Calabria) has won almost everything with the club from the north: the Italian Cup (2003), the Scudetto (2004), two UEFA Champions Leagues in 2003 and 2007, and the UEFA Super Cups in the same years. The only trophy missing from his haul is the FIFA Club World Cup, and as a member of the Milan team which lost to Boca Juniors in the Toyota Cup in 2003 (3-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw), Gattuso is out for revenge.
"Playing in a final is one thing, but we've promised ourselves that we're not going home without the trophy. The memories of our last match against them are still very much there for most of us, so we want to rewrite the history books and set the record straight."
No less than 12 of the Milan squad were among those who slipped to defeat in 2003, so Boca will be well aware that the rematch promises to be a blood and thunder affair...