Kashiwa Reysol’s penalty shoot-out loss to Al-Sadd in the match for third place at the FIFA Club World Cup 2011 may have deprived the Japanese champions of the perfect way to crown a remarkable season, but the Sun Kings can look back with pride at a year that also threw up some daunting challenges off the field.
Reysol goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno was unable to repeat his heroics from the penalty shoot-out win over Mexico’s Monterrey in the quarter-finals, but he believes his team’s Japan 2011 showing - and their incredible J.League title win in their first season after promotion - will have cheered supporters in Kashiwa. This after media reports suggested the city had a 'hot spot' of radiation that leaked from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“As the team representing the host nation, it was significant that we could take part in the Club World Cup, especially with all the radiation rumours about Kashiwa after the 11 March disaster. In that regard, I think maybe as a team from Kashiwa, and from Japan, we've given people a boost,” Sugeno told FIFA.com after Sunday's game in Yokohama. “I’m glad we’re standing on a stage where we’re able to do that. I feel that everybody on this team has improved by playing at this world-class tournament.”
Kashiwa had come into the game with high hopes despite missing J.League Player of the Year Leandro Domingues, ineligible after picking up two yellow cards, whose combinations with fellow Brazilian Jorge Wagner had been instrumental in Reysol’s 2011 success. Although Kashiwa dominated possession and created far more scoring chances, even without their talismanic forward, Al-Sadd’s defence held firm to keep the tie goalless after 120 minutes before winning 5-3 on penalties.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted,” Wagner said. “We wanted to place as high as we could, but we couldn’t score the goal we needed. It was a real pity.”
Although the defeat marked a disappointing end to the season, Wagner is confident Kashiwa’s accomplishments in 2011 will stand them in good stead. “We took part in a really important tournament, for me personally and for the team," he said. "We played against quality teams and tasted the atmosphere of a big tournament. This experience will serve us well as we look ahead to next season.”
Al-Sadd relishing success
While Kashiwa might have had the backing of the local fans in this game, Asian champions Al-Sadd also had plenty to play for. "The FIFA Club World Cup is an extremely important tournament for our club, for the players, and especially for the people back in Qatar,” captain Abdulla Koni said after the game. “Qatari football is on the way up, and we’ll be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup™. Qatari football needs to keep improving.
“I’m so pleased we won third place,” the defender continued. “Kashiwa are a pretty good team, so we had to play well. They will play in the AFC Champions League next year, so today we had to show the qualities that made us Asian champions. It was a tough match, and most of the supporters in the stadium were behind Kashiwa. Still, I enjoyed the game.”
Koni also had some kind words for the hospitality shown by the host nation after the game played on Qatar National Day. “I’d like to thank everyone in Japan who has made our stay here so pleasant and memorable. The people have been so kind and welcomed us as if we were family. It was nice to see people waving at us at our hotel. I’d like to dedicate this victory to Qatar’s Royal Family and the public back home. And I’d love to take part in next year’s FIFA Club World Cup.”