Yesterday, at Yokohama International Stadium, in Yokohama, Japan, Spanish Football’s and FC Barcelona’s gifted midfielder, Andres Iniesta, gave a scintillating performance against China’s Guangzhou Evergrande in the FIFA Club World Cup, leading his team to a 3-0 win and a place in the finals against Argentina’s River Plate this coming Sunday.
Luis Suarez scored a hat trick—following up to convert a rebound off an Ivan Rakitic long range blast, receiving an incredible aerial assist from Iniesta to volley away the second, and converting a non-existent penalty—but it was Iniesta’s play in midfield that set the tempo and provided the punctuation marks throughout a match the Catalans dominated with over seventy percent of the possession.
Any game highlights will clearly show the midfield maestro was at his best with his intricate passing made to look so simple as to seem commonplace, his brilliant dribbling always effective and destabilizing, and his constant movement making him both the creator and the outlet provider. With both Neymar and Lionel Messi out of action, it was Iniesta who took over the creative and leadership duties for Barca on a night that should have been easier than it was, if only the team been at full strength.
But Barcelona has few real opponents on this globe and the side from Guangzhou, despite a roster boasting five Brazilians as first team members (including Robinho), and ex-Brazilian National Team coach, Luis Felipe Scolari, at their helm, were never really in the match. Though they did provide some occasional worry, Claudio Bravo and company were more than capable of fending off all comers.
It is ironic to remember Paulinho’s role in Scolari’s national team stratagems as the midfield strongman, a 2014 World Cup fixture. In this competition, he turned scorer, providing the Chinese team’s winning goal against Mexico’s America. The header put them into yesterday’s semifinals.
Notably and unfortunately, at the 36th minute of the match, Dani Alves, going for a header in the box, pushed defender Zou Zheng who fell badly, fracturing his leg. Fans will recall David Villa suffered the same fate in this tournament in 2011, in a semifinals match against Qatar’s Al-Sadd, in Nissan Stadium, also in Yokoma, Japan.
Come early Sunday (5:30 AM, EST) FC Barcelona will meet Argentina’s River Plate in what is widely expected to be another Spanish coronation for the Cules. Indeed this final might be a foregone conclusion should either Messi or Neymar be fit enough to join the starters, or if Iniesta has another routine day at his office.