The match for third place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 is an all-Asian clash between Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol and AFC Champions League holders Al-Sadd Sports Club. The sides’ dreams of lifting the trophy came to nothing, but quite apart from a podium finish at the intercontinental tournament, a great deal of prestige is at stake on Sunday, and an exciting battle of wits lies ahead.
Whatever happens on Sunday, 2011 has been a momentous year for Kashiwa Reysol. After regaining their J.League status, they made history as the first promoted club to win the Japanese top flight, qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup in the process. Unburdened by pressure of any sort, Kashiwa marched into the semi-finals with wins over Auckland City and Monterrey, and put up a terrific fight against mighty Santos before falling to a narrow defeat. A victory in the match for third place would crown a remarkable year for one of Japan’s oldest clubs.
Opponents Al-Sadd have enjoyed a fine 12 months of their own, becoming the first Qatari club to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup by winning Asia’s premier club competition. Once in Japan, they defeated Esperance in the quarter-finals, but were unable to upset the form book in a 4-0 semi-final defeat to Barcelona.
3 – They say all good things come in threes, but that is not the case for Japanese teams at the FIFA Club World Cup. Kashiwa Reysol have joined Urawa Red Diamonds (2007) and Gamba Osaka (2008) in reaching but losing a semi-final, as J.League clubs continue to find a berth in the intercontinental final elusive.
"Being competitive at this level proves we’re heading in the right direction. I hope we benefit in the future from all the experience we’ve picked up here. That's really important, especially for the younger players. We’re looking forward to the match for third place, because the tournament is far from over for us," Jorge Wagner, Kashiwa Reysol midfielder.
"Ever since we arrived here in Japan, we’ve been determined to enjoy the tournament, and that’ll be our motto for the game against Kashiwa. We’ll give it our best shot and revel in the experience. We’re definitely up for it," Mamadou Niang, Al-Sadd striker.