Sunday, Spanish Football’s FC Barcelona defeated Argentina’s CA River Plate 3-0, at Yokohama International Stadium, in Yokohama, Japan, to win their fifth trophy of the season, the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup. Barcelona, the reigning Copa del Rey, La Liga, Champions League and UEFA Super Cup champions can now add their fifth trophy of the year. Only the Spanish Super Cup eluded them this year.
Playing for history and not against any opponent, Barca coach, Luis Enrique, surprised no one when he added Argentine Lionel Messi and Brazilian Neymar to the starting team, spearheaded by Uruguayan Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta, which had gotten them to the final. The result was an overwhelming win punctuated by a few worthy River Plate plays most notably an 83rd minute, left-footed, Gonzalo Martinez shot that forced a full-stretch dive from Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo—his hand just reaching to push the ball onto the left post.
The match also had a number of good Catalan team plays spearheaded by Brazilian Dani Alves on the right wing, several River Plate attacks down the middle of the box snuffed out by Argentine Javier Mascherano, and Bravo had a few added occasions to show what proper positioning can do for goalkeeping.
The final had its expected uncertain beginnings as the teams who have not played one another all year, took each other’s measure. Some good play resulted in the first half hour that began to make the audience of 70,000 think they might just witness a competitive match. But the fate of the game was sealed at the 36th minute, when Messi faked going after a bouncing ball in the box, and then let it bounce forward before volleying it into the nets as two defenders closed in on him. It was unfortunate that it seemed he might have controlled the bounce with his arm, given there were six sets of flaying arms swarming the ball, but the goal was ruled fair.
The second half proved that the first had resulted in both teams knowing each other’s measure. Barcelona seemed to anticipate most of River’s moves while the team representing South American seemed always at a disadvantage whenever any of the fabulous Barca trident, plus Iniesta, bore down on goal.
Suarez’s 49th and 68th goals put the match to bed as the striker completed a two-game, five-goal performance to put the icing on a La Liga season that has seen him tally 13 goals in 15 matches.
Neymar played his usual game, assisting on both Messi’s opener and Suarez’s second goal while occasionally attempting a ridiculous play on his own. Twice, the gifted Brazilian dribbled past the entire River Plate defense only to meet the umpteenth opponent who finally took the ball away. Iniesta was still on all cylinders too, making it impossible for River to find someone they could mark, though the diminutive Spaniard was given special attention by his opponents. River coach, Marcelo Gallardo, had watched Barca’s previous game and doubtless felt that if Messi and Neymar were not to play marking Iniesta tightly would give his team a chance. Oh, well.
We might be witnessing another historic FC Barcelona side, the question, though, remains as to where it will rank in comparison to Pep Guardiola’s or Johan Cryuff’s troops. Stay tuned.