Four months have passed since SC Internacional do Porto Alegre clinched their place at the FIFA Club World Cup 2010 by winning the Copa Libertadores, and O Colorado have since spent a significant chunk of that period preparing thoroughly for the challenge ahead.
Leaving no stone unturned, the preparatory period has comprised three exhaustive phases, the first of which entailed compiling a dossier on each of the four semi-finalists in this year’s CAF African Champions League. Secondly came sending scouts to watch African champions TP Mazembe Englebert and CONCACAF counterparts Club de Futbol Pachuca first-hand, with the final stage the preparation of a DVD featuring action from games involving both sides.
And the Sport Club Internacional squad certainly seems to have taken the importance of preparing for every eventuality on board, with the players asking permission to attend 10 December’s quarter-final clash between TP Mazembe and Pachuca at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium. "At first it was only the coaching staff who wanted to go, but we asked if we could go too," said Inter captain Bolivar. "It’s better watching first-hand than on video, this way we can all get together and discuss what each of us thought."
"After watching the game we could see how physically strong Mazembe are. We’re going to be in for a very tough match (in the semi-finals),” chipped in team-mate Rafael Sobis.
“We’ve been preparing for this tournament for a long time now and that’s partly why our performances dropped off a bit towards the end of the Brasileirao,” said Inter's Argentinian schemer Andres D’Alessandro on the 2006 world champions’ bid to win a second FIFA Club World Cup crown. “We’ve achieved great things on our continent and now we’re going for even bigger things on the global stage.”
Celso Roth’s charges also received a huge vote of confidence prior to jetting off from Porto Alegre to the UAE. On the eve of their flight, a screening the film 'Absoluto', which tells the story of Inter's road to their 2010 Libertadores triumph, drew a crowd of over 25,000 fans to the Estadio Beira-Rio, while 5,000 are expected to make the journey to attend their side’s opener against TP Mazembe on 14 December here in Abu Dhabi.
“We’re a high-profile club nowadays. We weren’t so well known back in 2006 (in Japan), but after we beat Barcelona (in the final) we went up in everyone’s estimation. This tournament is very important to everybody back home,” said Bolivar, explaning the Brazilian media’s feverish coverage of the Colorado contingent since arriving in the Emirates.
“We’ve got a lot of responsibility on our shoulders and that’s reflected a bit by what’s happening here, with the press following us all the time. We’re under siege!” quipped midfield talisman Giuliano, scorer of a series of vital goals in Inter’s Libertadores success. “That can get to people, but we need to stay focused. We’re totally aware that the team is very strong and united. And as long as that’s the case we won’t go far wrong.”
Despite their exacting preparations for events on the pitch, the Porto Alegre side were unable to prevent their flight leaving Brazil two hours late and facing an even lengthier delay after an unscheduled stop in Nigeria. Yet it was the coaching staff whose nerves were most frayed by these setbacks, with the players in buoyant mood throughout and remaining in excellent humour during their training sessions thus far.
“Today we’re going to take another step towards acclimatising here. Travel delays throw a spanner in the works but we got some rest and we’ve trained well,” said left-back Kleber, typifying the optimistic feel around the Inter camp. “We’re in good spirits and what’s more, the climate couldn’t be better.”