No-one would dispute that SC Internacional do Porto Alegre fell short of their objectives at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010. Despite the Brazilians bowing out on a high with a handsome 4-2 defeat of Korea Republic’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma F.C. in the match for third place, any joy was tempered by the fact that they had come with much loftier ambitions in mind.

Disappointment at their shock semi-final defeat to TP Mazembe Englebert still tinged the voices of the Sport Club Internacional players as they shared their views with following Saturday’s consolation win over the Asian champions. Among them was captain Bolivar, who could barely conceal his dejection at how the tournament turned out for the 2006 champions: “Our real aim here was to fight it out in the final, but unfortunately for us we couldn’t make it. Lady Luck was not on our side in that first game.”

Offering an equally downbeat appraisal was midfielder Tinga, who said: “We’re going to watch the final and it’s going to be painful for us. We know we should have been there.” Mixed in among the sadness, however, was a genuine feeling of pride. In rising to Saturday’s occasion, Celso Roth’s men finally got in among the goals and turned in a compelling performance that earned the applause of their demanding fans, anxious to retrieve something from a difficult week.

“We really needed this win and we wanted to save Inter’s honour,” added Bolivar. “We fully understand where the fans are coming from. We know they were annoyed and that they wanted the title. That’s why they made themselves heard. But even so they stuck with us and recognised our efforts in the end.

Playing in a Club World Cup is a great way to round things off. Now I can say that I ended my career in the best possible way.

Roberto Abbondanzieri on his final appearance

“The performance wasn’t much different to the one against Mazembe,” continued the skipper, attempting to explain the difference between Tuesday’s result and today’s. “All we did today was create chances and score the first goal. That made things a lot easier. We’re just happy to have played some decent football and scored some goals, which is what Inter are used to doing.”

The players might not have been smiling too much, but Inter’s third place at least provided a good omen for the year ahead, when they will set about the task of defending their Copa Libertadores title and earning a return ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup.

“It’s not easy to come back from such a bad result and do what we did today,” added the Colorado captain. “That just goes to show how much quality there is in this team and that we can challenge for even more titles in 2011 and make a return to this competition.”

One of the high points of the evening was the late entrance of Sport Club Internacional’s veteran Argentinian goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri. The 38-year-old keeper, affectionately known as El Pato (The Duck), is retiring from the game at the end of a career spanning two whole decades. And after receiving a tribute from his team-mates, he took to the field for one last time, bowing out on an emotional and ultimately victorious note.

“Playing in a Club World Cup is a great way to round things off,” he said. “Inter gave me the opportunity to play for one more season and now I can say that I ended my career in the best possible way by securing one last win with the club.”

Molina showing buoys Koreans
For Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma FC, a tournament that began in such positive fashion with a stylish 4-1 victory over Al Wahda Sports Club ended in chastening defeat. Indeed, while there were mitigating factors – most notably the absence of talismanic captain Sasa Ognenovski – midfielder Chong Kwang-Jin admitted that the manner of their defeat had exposed a gulf in quality.

“It has shown us how much we still need to improve,” he said. “We have reached the pinnacle of Asian football this year, but coming here and facing the top teams in the world, it’s clear to see the difference between us and them. We must learn from that. It has been wonderful to play against such great teams and I think will benefit from it, especially the younger players. I’m not sure if we will ever have the chance to play in a tournament like this again but I would love to come back some day. That should be our ambition.”

One Seongnam player who looked entirely at home on this global stage was Mauricio Molina. The Colombian midfielder was the one ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy evening for the South Koreans, with a well taken double establishing him as the tournament’s leading scorer. “I’m not surprised he has achieved this,” said Chong. “He has scored a lot of important goals for us in the K-League and the Asian Champions League. I think we are all grateful to have such a wonderful player in our team and I am very happy for him that he has played such a great tournament. Mauricio is someone we can all learn from.”