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Club World Cup Match Abstract: Real Madrid 4, Al Ain 1

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 3:37 pm
by RealGM Articles
  1. The anticipated matchup of the Club World Cup final was between River Plate and Real Madrid. But in playing in front of their home country, Al Ain deserved their run into the finals that included a win over Team Wellington in penalties, a 3-0 win over ES Tunis, and a win over River Plate on penalties all in a span of six days. The final against Real Madrid represents Al Ain’s fourth match in ten days.
  2. Of course, Real Madrid wouldn’t be bothered by their opponent’s workload as they go for their third straight Club World Cup. While one could question the reasoning behind the tournament, a world title is a world title, and one that Real Madrid will parade especially at the expense of Barcelona.
  3. Most of Real Madrid’s roster had never seen Al Ain play before their semifinal match against River. Sergio Ramos said that his side must play with humility regardless of the level of their opponent. Toni Kroos added that while he’s never seen Al Ain play, they must still treat them with the respect of a Bayern Munich or Barcelona.
  4. Thus, the purpose of the tournament: to showcase clubs and players to the world, and shine a light to quality outside of the top five European leagues. From that perspective, the tournament was a success with Al Ain the first Arab team to make the final. One Al Ain supporter commented how “people around the world are now hearing about us” and that the win against River Plate and finals matchup will resonate beyond sports into culture and tourism.
  5. Although Al Ain’s manager, Zoran Mamic, is a familiar name. The brother of former Dinamo Zagreb executive Zdravko Mamic, he was sentenced to a four-year sentence in Croatia for tax evasion for getting a profit from sales of players like Dejan Lovren and Luka Modric. Regardless, Mamic does have his managerial chops in leading Al Ain to a league double last season.
  6. The starting lineups are out, with Marcos Llorente’s continued rise under Santiago Solari partnering Luka Modric and Toni Kronos in midfield. Gareth Bale’s hat-trick versus Kashima in the semifinals re-raised his stock on the international level.
  7. Al Ain come out with a physical gameplan, fouling Kroos in the opening minute. And while Llorente and Kroos move forward in attack and leave spaces behind, Al Ain see a glimpse of Courtois’ goal with a turnover by Real Madrid and quick counter attack from midfield. So that is how the match will go.
  8. Real Madrid are attacking through the left side with the sequence of Bale getting free to the end line and dragging the ball back to Karim Benzema in the box.
  9. Al Ain should have scored off a mistake from Marcelo’s wayward backpass. Hussein El Shahat rounded Courtois and had an open net but Ramos cleared the ball off the goal-line. Those are the small mistakes Al Ain must capitalize upon.
  10. Just like that, Real Madrid come back to the other end and score. Modric plays in Lucas Vazquez, who plays a diagonal to Benzema, who plays it back to Modric for a curved, left footed goal. Madrid are ruthless in finals.
  11. Marcelo is having some difficulty with El Shahat on his left side.
  12. Real Madrid are piling on the pressure with combination play down the right wing through Dani Carvajal and Vazquez. They are beginning to strangle the match through Kroos and Modric in possession at the base of midfield.
  13. Bale gets free once again and creates a chance for Benzema. This is one-way traffic on Madrid’s left wing. Real Madrid are beginning to put on the style points in possession.
  14. Benzema blasts another open chance over the bar. Again, it’s a Vazquez cutback from the endline into the middle of Al Ain’s box.
  15. Al Ain striker Caio shows some individual quality in finding space and drawing a free kick inside Real Madrid’s third. That is the type of individual work that will get Al Ain back into the match in lieu of combination play.
  16. Appropriately, Ramos picks up a yellow card just before half time for a challenge on Caio.
  17. As the first half ends, Real Madrid are dominant as expected. Al Ain’s defensive shape is too passive, giving Kroos, Modric, Llorente, and Benzema more than enough time to pick out passes.
  18. The second half begins much as the first half ended with Madrid attacking from wide. Modric and Benzema combine down the left on a sequence that ends with Bale hitting a bicycle kick over the crossbar.
  19. Despite all of this dominance, possession, and theatrics, the score is still just 1-0.
  20. Bale sends in a ball to Benzema who hits it wide. The narrative is in danger of turning into how wasteful both Bale and Benzema have been throughout the match.
  21. Caio is easily the most dangerous attacker for Al Ain. His individual play is creating chances off free kicks and corners. I can’t remember his striker partner Marcus Berg touching the ball more than five times thus far.
  22. And while Real Madrid did say they were going to play with humility, that Kroos is attacking on the left wing shows how they feel about where the match is going.
  23. Llorente’s forward dynamism is causing Al Ain problems. If there is something different he can offer from Casemiro, it is that element of surprise up the middle.
  24. This is turning into a battle for who wants to score the second goal for Madrid between Modric, Kroos, Benzema, and Bale.
  25. And the answer is Llorente with a half-volley blast off a corner kick right into the side net. That is some technique from the 23-year-old, and we can see the controversy between he and Casemiro developing from miles away.
  26. Al Ain keeper Khalid Essa makes a pinpoint save on Bale, who looks desperate to score.
  27. Caio gets on the end of a long ball from Essa and forces a Courtois save. That threat is lurking.
  28. But Ramos gets Real Madrid’s third from a corner kick he started with an interception and drive through midfield.
  29. Al Ain get a goal back from a Tsukasa Shiotani header off a free kick given away by Marcelo. Shiotani did very well in redirecting the free kick over Courtois into the top corner.
  30. Vinicius Junior comes on late and creates Real Madrid’s fourth goal off an individual dribble to round out the match, although it is credited as an own goal.
  31. The 4-1 result was deserved, and Real Madrid were dominant, but there was a sense of something being unresolved in how they never fully took over the match like they could have - especially with Al Ain tiring. Bale and Benzema had sequences where they received the ball in front of net and couldn’t find the final touch.
  32. What could Al Ain have done differently? Outmatched on individual talent, maybe they could have packed the midfield with five players and pressured Kroos, Modric, and Llorente. But as Mamic mentioned afterwards, playing four games in ten days did his side no favors in terms of energy.
  33. In terms of standout players, I’d mention Caio for Al Ain and Llorente for Madrid. Caio was left alone to play up top and he did create his side’s best chances by pulling out dribbles and getting fouled in Madrid’s third. If the tournament was a showcase to the world, the 24-years-old Caio took advantage of the opportunity. Llorente is a dynamic, technical player from the deep-lying position. How Solari juggles him and Casemiro is worth keeping an eye on.
  34. Real Madrid have now won the Club World Cup four times, one more than Barcelona.
  35. Mamic provided levity from the high of his side’s run and win over River, saying they must now “come back to reality” and prepare for another domestic season.