As usual, Cristiano Ronaldo was at the heart of the action during Manchester United's 5-3 victory over Gamba Osaka in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup on Thursday evening.
Rising above the Osaka defence to head home Ryan Giggs' corner during first half injury time, the Portuguese winger has now scored in all the FIFA competitions he has taken part in (the others being the FIFA World Cup™ and the Olympic Games).
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com after the game, the Manchester United No7 expressed delight at the result, his goal and the enthusiasm shown by the Japanese fans, but also conceded that the Red Devils will have to step up a gear if they are to be crowned as club champions of the world on Sunday night.
FIFA.com: Cristiano, what did you think of the game? Cristiano Ronaldo: It was a fantastic match and one I really enjoyed playing in. The atmosphere was brilliant and it was a good game. I was pleased that we won. We scored goals at important times and thanks to that we're through to the final. All of the lads are delighted in the dressing room, but we know that we'll have to play better on Sunday.
There were over 67,000 fans packed inside Yokohama Stadium tonight. What did you make of their support?The Japanese fans are always brilliant, they were screaming all throughout the game - I think they're amazing - and I'm really happy that we entertained them. There were times tonight when we tried to do a few spectacular things: sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't, but I hope that they could see that we wanted to play attacking football. Obviously, the fans here don't get to see us play here very often, so it's great for them and us.
Any final is always difficult, but you expect an even tougher game when you meet the champions of South America.
What did you make of Gamba Osaka's performance?It was good to play against a team who never stopped going forward. Sometimes when a team are losing 5-1, they worry about losing more goals, but Gamba were always trying to score. I thought they played nice football and they have some very good players, who work really well together. Obviously they are not a tall team and I think that's why we scored two goals from corners, but overall they did really well.
Were you disappointed to concede three goals?
For us, it was a little bit disappointing to concede three, but it was a very open game. Sometimes in a match you score a lot of goals, but you concede them as well - and that's what happened tonight. But for us, the most important thing was the victory. I'm happy with the whole experience. It was great to win - it was great to score - and it's great to be here in Japan.
What do you think the reason was for Osaka pegging you back?I think in the last 20 minutes we tired a lot, which affected our concentration. The jet lag affected us a little bit, but I think that was only to be expected. With another few days to acclimatise, I don't think that will be a factor against Liga de Quito.
What are your early thoughts about Sunday's final?
We're expecting a very difficult game. Any final is always difficult, but you expect an even tougher game when you meet the champions of South America. We know that we'll have to prepare extremely well and I am sure that we will use the next few days to learn all we can about them. It's going to be a good game - and I hope we win.
You have one goal, but Wayne Rooney has two. Are you two battling it out to be the tournament's top goalscorer here in Japan?
If Wayne finishes as the top scorer of the tournament ahead of me, I wouldn't mind. I'd be delighted for him. To be honest, I'm not looking to be the best scorer in this competition; I just want to do the best job I can for the team. Wayne did very well tonight. He came on to the pitch hungry to score - and he got two fantastic goals. He's delighted with that and I'm delighted for him.