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Chelsea takes aim at Corinthians after reaching CWC final

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard is determined to prove the superiority of European soccer in Sunday’s Club World Cup final, but warns that Brazilian opponents Corinthians have the samba magic to jeopardize his side’s plans for global domination.

Chelsea beat Mexico’s Monterrey 3-1 on Thursday night to set up a showdown with South American champions Corinthians at Nissan Stadium, giving the Londoners the chance to lay their hands on the world title for the first time in the club’s history.

European teams have won every edition of the Club World Cup since Brazil’s Internacional last claimed the trophy for South America in 2006, and Lampard is keen to maintain that stranglehold against the Sao Paulo side on Sunday.

“As they grow up they are probably watching Barcelona and the Premier League and the Champions League on TV, and they don’t get the chance to pit their wits against us,” the 34-year-old said of Corinthians, who booked their place in the final by beating Egypt’s Al-Ahly 1-0 on Wednesday. “We have much stronger leagues in Europe — I don’t think you can say anything about that.

“But Brazil has that magical history of being a footballing nation, so I think that will bring a bit of magic to the game on Sunday.”

Chelsea took a first-half lead against Monterrey through Juan Mata before sealing the deal with two goals in the space of two minutes immediately after the break, giving interim manager Rafael Benitez his third straight win to continue the rehabilitation of a team that lost its European title in the group stages of the Champions League last week.

“I think it was a good game, a high tempo, good play, great goals and movement and a lot of positives for us against a team that was very organized,” said Benitez, who won the Club World Cup with Inter Milan in 2010. “I think especially the start of the second half was very good, so I am happy with the performance.

“You can never be confident when you play a final because anything can happen. Obviously we have a good team and we played well, but we need to win the game. Corinthians will be tough. We are ready and I think we can do it, but we have to play the game.”

Monterrey’s hopes of canceling out Mata’s 17th-minute opener were swiftly extinguished by two goals at the start of the second half, with Fernando Torres rifling home via a deflection before Darvin Chavez put the ball into his own net.

“Fernando is, was and will always be a very important player and a very good striker for us,” Mata said of Torres, who has now scored five goals in his last three games. “Today he scored one goal and had an assist, he is fit and we have a lot of confidence in him.

“The feeling is that we are happy about today but we didn’t do the job completely, because we want to win this world championship. We know that Corinthians are one of the best teams in South America, and we will try to play our best in order to win.”

The match was played in front of swathes of empty seats among the 36,648 crowd at Nissan Stadium, but that is unlikely to be the case on Sunday with thousands of Corinthians fans having made the journey to Japan.

“I don’t know if it’s an advantage — if it livens up the atmosphere it probably helps every player, because we love playing in that sort of an atmosphere,” said Lampard. “You know how much it means to Brazilian teams and Brazilian fans, so I would have thought you’ll see a bit extra to the atmosphere come Sunday.”

Aldo de Nigris’ injury-time consolation goal was not enough to prevent Monterrey from dropping into Sunday’s third-place playoff against Al-Ahly, and manager Victor Vucetich was left ruing Chelsea’s explosive start to the second period.

“When the whistle blew I think we became too timid,” he said. “We were able to regain our rhythm gradually, but Chelsea were very strong and didn’t allow us to play. Conceding two goals at the start of the second half was the killer blow. That is what decided the game.”