Bayern versus ‘an entire nation’
For the last time this year, the players will pull on the famous kit, lace their boots, listen attentively to Pep Guardiola, parade out of the tunnel and hopefully then do what they have done so often in 2013: beat their opponents! As Thomas Müller put it, it would be the “crowning glory” on top of last season’s treble and the perfect way to start the holiday period. “We’re very confident and we intend to show how strong we are one more time,” declared the Germany international on the eve of the FIFA Club World Cup final against hosts Raja CasablancainMarrakech.
There is no mistaking the utter desire to claim a fifth trophy of the year among the players and boss Pep Guardiola, who twice guided Barcelona to Club World Cup glory. “We have to be 100 percent focused on our dream,” urged the coach, taking another opportunity to thank his predecessor: “I’m here for Jupp. I hope we win the trophy, for him, the players and the whole club.“
Bayern have twice lifted the Intercontinental Cup, the predecessor to the current competition. A golden generation spearheaded by Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller claimed the honours in a two-legged final against Brazilian cracks Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte in 1976. Fully 25 years later, Oliver Kahn led the way as Sammy Kuffour scored the only goal in Japan to beat Argentine outfit Boca Juniors. Claudio Pizarro was in the team that day and could be the first man to win the competition with Bayern on two occasions. Pizza is fit to play after recovering from a dead leg sustained in the semi-final.
It means Guardiola is spoilt for choice on Saturday evening as all 23 members of the squad are fit. But regardless of the line-up, the men from Munich will face passionate and committed opponents. Marrakech has been consumed by euphoria and eager anticipation for the game, as Guardiola personally witnessed when he watched Raja Casablanca’s shock victory over Atletico Mineiro live at the stadium.
“The people were unbelievably enthusiastic and deliriously happy,” the Spaniard reported. “We’re playing against an entire nation, not just a football team. It’ll be a hard and white-hot final.“ FIFA President Joseph Blatter agreed there would be “a unique atmosphere in the stadium.” The Bayern stars are aware of what lies in wait. “The whole country will get behind them and support them. That’s what makes it such a big ask,” acknowledged Philipp Lahm.
Raja boss fired up for Bayern
The teams have never met before, and both are contesting the Club World Cup final for the first time. However, the Moroccans featured in the trial run for the current competition back in 2000, when they lost 3-2 to Real Madrid. Bayern are runaway favourites with the bookmakers, but the team coached by Faouzi Benzarti have no intention of running up the white flag before a ball has been kicked. “We’re hoping to bring this wonderful adventure to a successful conclusion and win the title,” the coach declared.
“My players are very motivated to turn in another great display against a top team. Bayern are a huge and historic club with their own philosophy,” continued Benzarti, “but we’re not going to be overawed and we’ll try and take our chance.“ However, FCB are well-prepared and in no mood for sentimentality. “We know how strong we are,” concluded Lahm, “if we play to our potential it’ll be very difficult for Casablanca.“