Internacional is determined to bring the Club World Cup back to Brazil and prove that soccer’s European giants can’t always buy their way to success, forward Fernandao said Friday.
South American champion Internacional is seen as the strongest challenger to Champions League winner Barcelona in the Dec. 10-17 tournament that brings together the top clubs from each of the six FIFA confederations.
Fernandao hailed the Spaniards and their star player, Ronaldinho, as the best in the world, but warned that may not be enough to win the title Internacional wants to keep in Brazil following Sao Paulo’s triumph last year.
“Any European club is better off economically and it is very important to prove that Brazilians teams in less fortunate financial conditions are able to win against the clubs who have lots of money,” the 28-year-old said.
“Barcelona excel in two things: they are able to buy the top players and they are able to get those top players to play as a team.
“They know and the world knows they are perhaps the best club in the world but we are prepared to fight to take away that tag from them.”
Internacional plays in the semifinal on Dec. 13 at Tokyo’s National Stadium against the winner of the opening match between Oceania champion Auckland City FC of New Zealand and Egypt’s Al Ahly, the African champion.
Mexico’s Club America plays Chonbuk Motors of South Korea on Monday and the winner plays Barcelona in the final four on Dec. 14 at International Stadium Yokohama.
Internacional and Barca are on a collision course for the final at International Stadium Yokohama on Dec. 17. In last year’s showdown, Sao Paulo beat European heavyweight Liverpool 1-0.
Fernandao’s fellow striker Pedro Iarley played in the final in 2003 when he was part of the Argentine Boca Juniors side that beat AC Milan in the Toyota Cup, one of the tournament’s previous names.
“It feels like I am here for the first time. I’m telling all the younger players to stay calm and play the way they normally play, but it is difficult because they tend to get excited and nervous,” the 32-year-old Iarley said.
One of the younger players he is looking after is 17-year-old striker Alexandre — nicknamed “Alex the Duck” — who burst onto the Brazilian scene last month with a dazzling debut and is tipped to make an impact in the tournament.
Internacional advanced to the Club World Cup by beating Sao Paulo in the final of the Copa Libertadores in August.
The Club World Cup began in 1960 as the Intercontinental Cup before changing to the Toyota Cup in 1980, with the cup contested between South American and European heavyweights.
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