- FIFA Club World Cup debut for three-time South American champions Gremio
- They will face the winners Pachuca-Wydad in the semi-final on 12 December
- Their objective? To become the fourth Brazilian team to win the tournament
As the winners of the Intercontinental Cup 34 years ago, Gremio know what it feels like to be crowned the best football club on the planet. O Tricolor Gaúcho now have a unique opportunity: to cap off an incredible 2017, during which they won their third Copa Libertadores, by lifting a trophy that they have not yet added to their cabinet - the FIFA Club World Cup.
The United Arab Emirates are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the South American champions, who will enter the fray on 12 December against the winners of the Pachuca-Wydad Casablanca tie. And their raucous fanbase, who invaded the streets of Porto Alegre to celebrate their continental triumph, are already dreaming of a potential glamour final versus Real Madrid on 16 December in Abu Dhabi.
The challenge that awaits will not be easy, but there is huge enthusiasm within the squad at the idea of adding a new line to their impressive list of honours.
“We cannot forget that there’s still a semi-final to get through,” said goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe, one of the heroes of Gremio's remarkable Copa Libertadores run. “It’s an important step, but of course we’re aware that if we do we’ll probably face Real, and they’ll be huge favourites due to their general level and quality. It doesn’t cost a thing to dream of being champions; we’ll need to focus hard if we want to actually lift the trophy.”
Reasons for optimism: Brazilian teams in the tournament
Brazil can boast the greatest number of winning teams (three) of any country in the Club World Cup: Corinthians emerged victorious at the inaugural edition, in 2000, and were the last non-European side to win the tournament, in 2012, while Sao Paulo and Internacional claimed victory in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
In the four – out of 13 – editions of the competition where a non-European team has not ended up with winners’ medals, the champions were Brazilian.
Including Gremio in 2017, Brazil has provided the highest number of different clubs – seven – to the tournament than any other country, one more than Mexico (six).
Gremio’s assets in UAE
The talisman: *Renato Gaucho *After securing the Copa Libertadores with Gremio as a player and coach – the first Brazilian to achieve such a feat – the 55-year-old tactician now has his sights set on a similar double, having scored both goals in the Porto Alegre outfit’s 2-1 Intercontinental Cup victory over Hamburg in 1983.
*The star: Luan *Named Player of the Tournament for the 2017 Copa Libertadores, during which he notched eight goals and finished as his team’s top scorer, Luan is regarded as the most talented Brazilian currently playing in the country’s national league. A gold medal winner with Brazil at the 2016 Olympic Football Tournament, the forward wears the No7 jersey for Gremio, following in the footsteps of some of the club’s most iconic stars, such as the aforementioned Gaucho in the 1980s, and Paulo Nunes, who led the team to Libertadores glory in 1995.
*Veteran trio: Kannemann, Bruno and Fernandinho *All three players know what it is like to perform at a Club World Cup, so their experience will be vitally important. Argentinian centre-back Walter Kannemann was part of the San Lorenzo team that lost 0-2 to Real Madrid in 2014, while Fernandinho finished third with Atletico Mineiro in 2013 and Bruno Rodrigo represented Santos in the 2011 final against Barcelona (won 4-0 by the Blaugrana).