As European representatives, FC Internazionale Milano would have been accustomed to fulfilling the traditional role of tournament forerunners in the build-up to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010. Odds on an Italian triumph were shortened yet further once the South American champions, typically the principle obstacle to European success in the event, were ousted unceremoniously. Congolese side TP Mazembe Englebert, architects of the downfall of Brazilian giants SC Internacional do Porto Alegre, now find themselves on the brink of creating what would undoubtedly be the biggest shock in the short history of the competition.
TP Mazembe Englebert-FC Internazionale Milano, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, Saturday 18 December 2010, 21.00 (local time)
It would be fair to say that prizes in club football do not come much bigger than this. The team that emerges victorious from Saturday’s clash will succeed 2009 winners Barcelona as world champions. If the cup ends up in Italian hands, it will be the third time that the Milanese outfit have achieved such a feat, following their back-to-back wins in the Intercontinental Cup in 1964 and 1965. For TP Mazembe, success at this level would obviously be a first, given that in its former guise the competition was reserved solely for the European and South American champions.
I Nerazzurri will start the match as favourites, and are hopeful that a win will provide the team with a timely morale boost after a testing couple of months in Serie A and Europe. As for Les Corbeaux (The Crows), they have already more than surpassed their initial goal, that of making up for the two disappointing losses they suffered at the tournament last time around. With an entire continent behind them, the Lubumbashi side will be looking to end 2010 – an extremely significant year for African football – on a spectacular high.
1 – The remarkable aspect of this game is that it is the only time that a South American team has failed to reach the FIFA Club World Cup final. Consequently, T.P. Mazembe are the first club from outside the UEFA and CONMEBOL confederations to qualify for the showpiece match. By defeating Sport Club Internacional, the Africans also became the first club to have got the better of Brazilian opposition at the event.
“We’ve managed to rise to all the challenges that we’ve set ourselves. Now we’re faced with one last hurdle to overcome. You just never know,” Lamine N’Diaye, T.P. Mazembe coach
“If Mazembe can beat a Mexican team and a Brazilian team, then there’s no reason why they can’t do the same to a European team. But we’ll be fully focused on the task in hand, as we have no desire to fall into the same trap,” Javier Zanetti, FC Internazionale Milano captain