With the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 at the half-way stage, three teams have already fallen by the wayside. Al Ahli were the first to go out, followed by TP Mazembe and then Auckland City, leaving an impressive final four comprising Barcelona, Estudiantes, Pohang Steelers and Atlante. There have been no upsets thus far, with the survival of the fittest very much the order of the day, as is often to be expected at a competition of this calibre.
FIFA.com's latest 'Have Your Say' asked you which team would cause a shock at UAE 2009. Though the question sparked off some healthy debate, the majority of readers were of the same opinion.
Most of the people who wrote in responded in the negative: our readers do not envisage any real surprises and expect Barcelona to crush all opposition on their way to the title. The other clubs from the Spanish-speaking world, Estudiantes and Atlante, were mentioned in dispatches as possible sources for an upset, as were TP Mazembe, until the club from Congo DR were knocked out in the quarter-finals.
Meyas3 (England) stated that "there was no problem predicting the future winner", adding that "even if I am not a big Barça fan, when you look at the quality of their players and their current form, they're the ones who will provide the most entertainment."
Mochito-1997 (Spain) was of a similar opinion, stating "I respect the other teams, but Barcelona are vastly superior". He did qualify his statement however, saying that "maybe Estudiantes or even Atlante could cause an upset, but I can't really see that happening".
Much of our European readership held similar beliefs, with Gladbach from Germany confidently predicting that "Barcelona are bound to win the tournament, the other teams have got virtually no chance", though he too said that "the Mexican team might spring a shock".
Other readers were looking further south for their potential upsets, with Superstar96 (Lebanon) thinking that "Barcelona will win" but that "the South Americans might be the surprise package of the tournament". CINCUENTAY-5 (Venezuela) on the other hand saw "no potential surprises as we will have a Barcelona-Estudiantes final". kranhaz99 (Mexico) was more partisan in his support, saying: "I'd like Estudiantes to win and Atlante to beat Barça as I prefer Real Madrid!"
Other Internet users were prepared to go out on a limb and predict a few shock results. javipabon (Colombia) for example said that "for the first time, we won't have a winner from Europe or South America". This was an opinion shared by Xivox1 (Spain), who stated that "Pohang Steelers could knock out Estudiantes" since the two teams would "cancel each other out".
Many of those who posted in on the French version of the site thought highly of TP Mazembe and in particular their centre forward Mabi Mputu, but mondial05 (Algeria) spoke for the majority, saying "I can't see any surprises, Barcelona are the runaway favourites. Barca really oughtn't miss out on this incredible opportunity to add to their trophy cabinet."
We will not know who was spot on and who was wide of the mark until the final of UAE 2009 on Saturday 19 December 2009, and while it is hard to imagine any surprise results, the tournament in Abu Dhabi will no doubt keep us in suspense right to the end.