YOKOHAMA — Italian giants AC Milan outclassed Japan’s Urawa Reds 1-0 on Thursday to set up a date with Boca Juniors in the Club World Cup final.
Clarence Seedorf’s second-half strike sealed a deserved victory and gave the European champions the opportunity on Sunday to avenge their penalty shootout defeat to Boca at the 2003 Toyota Cup, the Club World Cup’s forerunner.
“It will be a tough match against Boca but it won’t be a rematch because we had different squads in 2003,” said Seedorf. “I just hope we can win the final.”
Urawa spent most of the opening period chasing shadows in the face of relentless pressure from the Italians, who nearly broke the deadlock in the 13th minute in front of over 67,000 at International Stadium Yokohama.
Andrea Pirlo saw a dipping free kick tipped over the bar by Ryota Tsuzuki and captain Massimo Ambrosini headed just off target from the resultant corner.
A probing run from Ballon d’Or winner Kaka then set up Seedorf but the Dutchman’s shot lacked enough purchase to trouble Tsuzuki.
The one-way traffic continued after the interval and Seedorf set the alarm bells ringing in the Reds’ defense again, hitting the side netting after a perfectly timed run in the 56th minute.
Washington forced a fine save from Dida following a rare foray forward from the Reds but Milan’s dominance finally came to fruition when Kaka picked out Seedorf to lash home unmarked in the 68th minute.
“I was looking forward to seeing such a game today,” said Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy but we moved swiftly on the counterattack and our rhythm was great.
“The next team will be different in terms of experience and history. For us we are just thinking about the trophy and will do our best to win the game,” said Ancelotti.
Libertadores Cup winners Boca beat Etoile Sahel of Tunisia 1-0 in the first semifinal in Tokyo on Wednesday. The Reds will play Etoile in the third-place playoff ahead of Sunday’s final in Yokohama.
Urawa midfielder Keita Suzuki said, “We are disappointed. Milan showed what top quality opponents they are and the defeat shows we still have a lot of work to do to improve.
“Hopefully we will get the chance to play them again one day. Now we just have to try our best to finish in third place.”
The club champions from FIFA’s six confederations are competing in the event that in 2005 replaced the Toyota Cup, a one-off match that had been played in Japan between the champions of South America and Europe until 2004.
Milan last won the title of the world’s best club in 1990 when they won a second straight Toyota Cup crown with a 3-0 win over Olimpia of Paraguay.
Ancelotti’s men are aiming to become the first European winners of the revamped tournament after Brazilian clubs won the first two editions.
Sao Paulo beat Liverpool 1-0 in 2005 and Internacional stunned Barcelona by the same scoreline last year.
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