Without a doubt, it has been a December to Remember for Masatada Ishii’s Kashima Antlers, who are now one win away from realizing the impossible dream of becoming World Champions of club football. In the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, the Antlers have put on a dream run, one that will be remembered for many years to come, regardless of what happens in the final.
The journey for the Antlers began in the playoff for the quarterfinals against Ramon Tribulietx’s Auckland City FC at the International Stadium in Yokohama on Dec. 8. After Kim Dae-wook put Auckland ahead on 50 minutes, the Antlers began a run in which they would not be scored upon through 220 match minutes and counting. Shuhei Akasaki (67′) and Mu Kanazaki (88′) powered Kashima to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the champions of Oceania.
Meanwhile, the champions of the CONCACAF Champions League, Ricardo La Volpe’s Club America, had big plans of their own and were hoping to dial in starting with a 2-1 win over Choi Kang-hee’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the champions of the AFC Champions League, on Dec. 11. After Kim Bo-kyung put Jeonbuk ahead on 23 minutes, Silvio Romero rallied back with a brace in the 58th and 74th minutes of play at the Suita City Football Stadium in Osaka.
Later that evening, the Antlers shut out Pitso Mosimane’s Mamelodi Sundowns, the champions of the CAF Champions League, 2-0, at the Suita City Football Stadium. After a scoreless first half, Yasushi Endo (63′) and Kanazaki (88′) scored for the Antlers to send them to the semifinals.
The action at the venue continued on Dec. 14 when Jeonbuk and Mamelodi battled for fifth place. It wasn’t even close. Goals from Kim (18′), Lee Jong-ho (29′), Kim Shin-wook (89′) and Ricardo Nascimento on a 41st minute own goal powered Jeonbuk to a commanding 4-1 win over the Sundowns. Percy Tau was the lone goalscorer for the African champions the entire tournament, scoring in the 48th minute of the match.
In one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, the Antlers shocked the world with a gritty 3-0 win over Reinaldo Rueda’s Atletico Nacional, the champions of the Copa Libertadores and who were playing with heavy hearts after handing the Copa Sudamericana to Chapecoense. Shoma Doi (33′) opened up the scoring before Endo (83′) and Yuma Suzuki (85′) left it late.
As for Club America, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, the champions of the UEFA Champions League and presumptive tournament favorites, were next at the International Stadium. Karim Benzema opened the scoring in the second minute of first half injury time to put Real Madrid ahead 1-0. The second half would see the favorites put on a defensive clinic to book their place in the final, with Cristiano Ronaldo‘s goal in the third minute of second half stoppage time sealing a 2-0 victory.
Here are 10 Bold Predictions for the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Final between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers.
- Cristiano Ronaldo will score a brace for Real Madrid.
- Karim Benzema will score for Real Madrid.
- A goal will be scored in first half injury time.
- A goal will be scored in second half stoppage time.
- No goals will be scored in the first 10 minutes.
- Keylor Navas will make at least four saves.
- Mu Kanazaki will score for Kashima Antlers.
- Hitoshi Sogahata will make at least five saves.
- Yuma Suzuki will score for Kashima Antlers.
- Luka Modric will score for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid 4, Kashima Antlers 2