YOKOHAMA – Gamba Osaka beat Mexico’s Pachuca 1-0 on Sunday to claim a second consecutive third-place finish for a Japanese team at the Club World Cup.
Masato Yamazaki converted a Ryuji Bando through-ball in the 29th minute to secure Gamba the bronze medal on Sunday, emulating Urawa Reds’ achievement in last year’s edition of the intercontinental club competition.
Gamba manager Akira Nishino bristled at comparisons with archrival Urawa, but nonetheless expressed satisfaction at a successful conclusion to his side’s first appearance on the world stage.
“I don’t really care about how Reds did last year,” he said. “How they play has nothing to do with our style, and I’m not really sure if it’s an appropriate comparison.
“We have played against three different clubs from three different continents. At the same time we have been able to play our own game, and I am very happy about this result.
“Our players weren’t afraid, and I believe that this will enable us to take the next step forward.”
Gamba had the better of an open first half, and after Yasuhito Endo and Satoshi Yamaguchi both failed to test Pachuca ‘keeper Miguel Calero with free kicks from the edge of the box, Yamazaki pounced for the opener.
Bando clipped a deft ball through to send Yamazaki clear, and the 27-year-old dispatched the ball with a finish every bit as assured as his strike against Manchester United in Thursday’s semifinal.
Gamba survived an injury-time red card for substitute Takahiro Futagawa to close out the match, but with an Emperor’s Cup quarterfinal against Nagoya Grampus looming on Thursday, Nishino had little time to reflect on what his side has achieved.
“It was a great challenge for us, and I think we have to process what we have learned over time,” he said.
“We don’t have time at the moment because we have to play on the 25th, and I don’t think we can take it all in before then. We are so tired, and right now it is so difficult to prepare for that match.
“For sure, though, in the long run this will contribute greatly to our development.”
Pachuca manager Enrique Meza conceded Gamba was the better team, and rued his players’ inability to make the most of what came their way.
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalize on our chances, and Gamba deserved to win,” he said.
“We took a lot of risks, and their counterattacks were very good. We couldn’t score when we needed to score, but I think our team played as well as we could.”