The confetti has been swept up, the floodlights switched out and the victory chants have left the bowels of the Khalifa International Stadium. As the dust settles on the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019, it has a new champion to add to its roll of honour.
The name is one football’s most famous, with Liverpool Football Club seeing themselves lit up as world champions for the first time, having pretty much already won everything else there was to win.
Merseyside’s Reds defeated a superb Flamengo side in one of the most closely fought finals the competition has seen. Having swept aside Brazil and South America with a brilliant swagger, the world provided just out of reach for Jorge Jesus’s side.
Instead it’s Jurgen Klopp, reigning The Best FIFA Men’s Coach, who can legitimately call his team the best on the planet.
The success of Liverpool and Flamengo this season instantly caused nostalgia to flare, particularly around Rio de Janeiro. Before this year’s final, the sides had met only once – during the 1981 Intercontinental Cup – which O Mengão fans still sing about, having dazzled in a 3-0 win to claim a world title themselves.
As such, both sets of fans had their hearts set on a rematch. Neither had it easy in in teeing up the encounter, though. Flamengo had to come from behind to beat stubborn debutants Al Hilal, needing a Bruno Henrique masterclass in the second half to secure their final ticket. Liverpool left it even later, requiring Roberto Firmino heroics to seal a stoppage-time win over Monterrey.
The final itself was truly a meeting of champions. Neither side blinked when faced with the prospect of global glory, playing out an engrossing, tactical chess match at the Khalifa International Stadium. Again it was Firmino who was the night’s king, showing the coolness needed in extra time to make sure it was ‘You Never Walk Alone’ that poured out from the stands at fulltime.
Earlier in the evening, Monterrey fans had been the ones in good voice. Not letting up for a moment across their side’s match for third place against Al Hilal, their wall of noise was rewarded with a second bronze medal in their history.
After a flurry of second-half goals saw 90 minutes also end all square, it was left to some goalkeeping heroics to decide the result. Luis Cardenas stepped up in more ways than one. First, Rayados’s second-choice stopper saved two spot-kicks to leave them one from victory. Then, he took that kick himself, adding his name to Monterrey folklore.
Tunisian giants Esperance Sportive de Tunis similarly finished on a high. They matched their best-ever finish of fifth in record style, defeating host champions Al Sadd 6-2, the most goals scored by a side Club World Cup history and equalling the most goals in a game.
A notable mention should also go to Hienghene Sport. The first side from New Caledonia to feature at the tournament, Hienghene kicked off the tournament by taking Al Sadd to extra time and threatening to start us off with an almighty upset.