Picking players up after a disappointing result and instilling them with hope and the determination to succeed is a complex task. It is one that Reinaldo Rueda has had to perform fast to get his Atletico Nacional side in the right frame for Sunday’s match for third place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016.
That is the nature of the competition, which offers no time to lock oneself away and let wounds heal. There is no option but to get out there and fight all over again. “The only way to get over this is to play another game and hope for a positive result,” Rueda told FIFA.com.
Having lifted themselves already, his players have a look of intent in their faces and a spring in their step. Following their frustrating defeat to Kashima, there is only one thing for it: to go and get a positive result in Sunday’s duel for third with Club America.
“It’s going to be a very tough, tight match, with two very different styles of play but which are both extremely competitive all the same,” said the 59-year-old coach. “Mexican football is very offensive and direct. Ricardo La Volpe has always had a very clear idea of things with his 3-5-2 and 3-3-4 formations. He always puts out very balanced side and it will be a nice battle between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL. We’re confident we can take a big step.”
He added: “It’s been very difficult to lift the team, because we were very excited when we came here. It’s been a tough few days, and we’ve been working on the players individually. There’s been a lot of frustration at coming here and not getting past the first hurdle.”
Making up for it
Atletico are not looking back any more. The watchword at their tournament base is “dignity”, with the aim being to end their debut FIFA Club World Cup appearance in the best possible manner.
The squad are focused on giving their loyal fans something to celebrate. Over 5,000 Verdolaga faithful have converged on Japan, making the trip from Medellin, Canada and even Melbourne to cheer on their beloved team. In the stands at the International Stadium Yokohama will be more than 600 members of the “Los del Sur” supporters club, many of whom have sold motorbikes and cars to make the journey to Japan, while others have put their houses up as collateral to take out loans. “Always there” is their slogan, and the players are anxious to reward their love and passion for the colours with one last victory, even if it has to come in the match for third place, with only a bronze medal at stake.
“We have to learn from this experience,” said the veteran Colombian coach. “It’s a harsh lesson that I’m sure will make us better. I’m sure we’ll take a lot of positive things for the future from this World Cup.”
Rueda should know, having previously taken part in four other FIFA tournaments: two World Youth Championships with Colombia, in 1993 and 2003, and the South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 World Cups with Honduras and Ecuador respectively. The expert tactician will be working hard in the last few hours before the game, fine-tuning his team and looking for ways in which to maximise their strengths and counter those of the opposition. In doing so, he will have one sole idea in mind: “I’m confident we can put in a good performance and come away with the win.”