The importance of FIFA Club World Cup in packed football schedule

Teams struggling with domestic and continental commitments have generally viewed the FIFA Club World Cup as a minor irritant.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp during the press conference ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup final against Flamengo on Saturday.   -  REUTERS

The FIFA Club World Cup has had 13 winners from Europe since its inception in 2000, but the tournament has failed to elicit much love in the continent as it comes in the middle of a busy European club football window.

Teams struggling with domestic and continental commitments have generally viewed the event as a minor irritant, with Leagues also showing displeasure over their need to alter pre-decided schedules.

Clubs from South America where the tournament was first held in 2000, however, see the World Cup as an opportunity to lock horns against European behemoths and a positive result adds further credence to their cults, while also opening opportunities for their players to migrate to better fortunes.

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This divide in interest is quite obvious when talking to the two finalists – Liverpool and Flamengo – in this year’s edition. “Flamengo got here with a clear order to come win it and be heroes, we got an order to play the Carabao Cup (League Cup), we can’t change that, but we want to win the competition. Liverpool fans want us to win. And this view has to change (the tournament is not important), our view has changed since we came here. For us it feels special,” Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, said.

Important contest

Elaborating on the realities facing his club with a busy Christmas and New Year schedule, Klopp said: “The boys wanted to play, the club wanted to play. That’s why we are here. If Flamengo win, they have a party. We play Leicester City. We cannot make it bigger for Europe but it is the most important for us.”

The Brazilian champion completed its 2019 League commitments in early December with the 2020 season scheduled to begin in May next year.

Elaborating on the importance of the tournament to his team, coach Jorge Jesus said: “This will be the most important final of my career. This club world championship is becoming more and more important. It's a unique opportunity, one that players wait for in their career.”

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Change in mindset

Liverpool’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker knows about the significance of the tournament and said: “Playing the club world cup is a dream come true. When I was 14 years old, my former club, Internacional, became the club world cup champion in 2006. I am here for the big opportunity to win it the first time for Liverpool.”

The 27-year-old keeper who has made a huge difference to his team’s fortunes since his move from Napoli in 2018 called it a tournament of champions, perhaps indicating a change in mindset among European clubs, who have many South American players in their contingents.

“It is big for Brazilians, it's big for those who are playing it. All the clubs have won their continental championship. We are making this big for us, to put our name to the history of the club,” he said.

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