SC Internacional do Porto Alegre had arrived at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010 in supremely confident mood. After all, the reigning Copa Libertadores had been preparing for the big event for four long months, with players, coaching staff and fans all focused on returning to the pinnacle of international club football by regaining a prize the club won in 2006.
In creating a glut of first-half chances in Tuesday’s semi-final against TP Mazembe Englebert, the Brazilians looked as if they were right on course to achieve that objective. But two unanswered second-half strikes by the Africans destroyed Inter’s carefully laid plans, leaving their despondent players at a loss for words when they eventually emerged from the bowels of the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium, the scene of their chastening loss.
“When you think about all the preparation we’ve put in then today’s defeat hurts even more,” the young Giuliano told FIFA.com. “We prepared in the best possible way, and we couldn’t have been more focused or motivated. We did everything as well as we possibly could. It’s awful to lose when you know that you could have gone much further.”
A second-half substitute on Tuesday, Giuliano had a golden opportunity to score when his side were trailing 1-0. However, as Rafael Sobis, Alecsandro, Bolivar and Tinga found before him, and Andres D’Alessandro and Leandro Damiao would find after him, the ball was destined not to go in.
“It’s hard to explain why we missed so many chances,” lamented the 20-year midfielder, who was named player of the tournament following Inter’s 2010 Copa Libertadores win. “It was just one of those days when we had shot after shot and the ball wouldn’t go in. Hats off to their keeper, though, who had a tremendous night. We did everything we possibly could; we were on top from the start and we played a great first half. We dominated possession and created the best chances but we just couldn’t score. That’s football, though, and the best team doesn’t always win.”
Sport Club Internacional’s shock reverse has brought to an end a run of five straight FIFA Club World Cup finals between European and South American sides. The defeat was made all the more painful by the fact it was the first suffered by a Brazilian team since the competition was restructured in 2000, a run stretching back 12 games. Yet, in attempting to come to terms with the setback, Giuliano vowed he and his team-mates would bounce back quickly.
“It’s hard to gauge the impact of this defeat,” said the 20-year-old midfielder. “All I can say is that it’s really sad, and that’s what’s going to stay with us. We came here as many people's favourites, with designs on reaching the final and we couldn’t make it. It’s a failure for us, but we’ve got to lift our heads up because life goes on. I don’t know if it’s going to be here at the World Cup, but we’ll have other chances to get back to the top.”
Cutting an even more dejected figure than Giuliano, was Rafael Sobis, the hero of Inter’s 2006 Libertadores win and the scorer of a vital goal in this year’s final against Guadalajara. Like his team-mates, the striker was confident of another trophy success, only for the Congolese to shatter his dreams.
“I wish I could just disappear right now,” lamented the former Real Betis forward, now in his second spell with O Colorado. “It just feels as if everything we’ve done this year was all for nothing. I hope the fans can take us in their arms, because they know we’ve got an experienced team that’ll fight for more trophies in the future, hopefully starting with next year’s Libertadores.”