All hail AC Milan!! For the 4th time in their club history, the Rossoneri have climbed on top of the world. And it doesn’t matter if the cup is called the Toyota Cup or the FIFA Club World Cup, this trophy is there to prove that over the year 2007, they are the strongest team around even if their Serie A record seems to disprove it. The goals of Inzaghi (double), Kaká and Nesta were too many for a Boca Juniors who fought valiantly and as equals to the Rossoneri for an entire half, and more. In the end though, the accelerations of Kaká, the ruthlessness of Inzaghi, and the added wild card value of Nesta (since when does he ever score a goal?) prevailed on the Argentines, who managed nonetheless to get on the scoreboard through Palacio and Ledesma. For Milan, this is international trophy nº18, more than any other club in the world.
Tactically, Carlo Ancelotti gave his trustworthy 4-3-2-1 Xmas Tree formation one more go, with Daniele Bonera and Paolo Maldini replacing Oddo and Jankulovski compared to the semi-final game vs. Urawa Reds. Up front, space was given to the experience of Pippo Inzaghi, often the author of match-winning goals in decisive games like these. As for Boca, Ãlvaro González replaced Fabián Andrés Vargas (suspended after his red card vs. Ã‰toile du Sahel).
The first few minutes of the match were a balanced display, between two teams who left little doubt on having earned their spot in the final game. To the speed, technique, and experience of the Rossoneri, Boca Juniors opposed tight teamwork, interdiction, tactical discipline and more importantly Argentine pride. These qualities would be absolutely essential in containing many of the Milan initiatives in the first half, especially because a certain player named Kaká was absolutely on fire today, pushing up, down, to the left and to the right. Too bad that he didn’t receive too much support from his teammates on the wings, from Maldini and Bonera in particular, players who are much more adept in defensive tasks than their benched counterparts Cafu, Oddo, or Jankulovski. As a result, Milan were often forced to try and break through centrally, but were having a tough time due to the incessant man-marking of their Argentine opponents.
After a few half-chances on either side (near-miss by Inzaghi in the 5th, followed by an open-net miss by Palacio in the 11th after a missed aerial interception by Dida), Milan went ahead in the 23rd with their most prolific player, or rather through a major contribution of the latter. After yet another forward run, Kaká first attempted a shot inside the box but found the opposition of Hugo Ibarra’s foot, then found the space for a perfect low cross to Pippo Inzaghi on the second post, who had no trouble in depositing the ball into the empty net. 1-0 Milan.
The Rossoneri lead lasted exactly 2 minutes. Enough time for Boca Juniors to take a quick corner-kick, make an accurate cross for Rodrigo Palacio (left along amongst a forest of Milan players), and tie the game through a header of the ‘Pada-Wan’ striker. 1-1 on some abysmal defending by the Italian team’s backline. A situation which almost repeated itself in minute 26, when Gonzalez went up for yet another header, this time millimeters wide of Dida’s post.
The half ended on 1-1 scoreline, a justified result based on what was seen on the field. Boca had been well-organized in defense, and had taken away most of the space from the Rossoneri midfield, forcing Kaká & friends to dig deep within their arsenal of tricks to try and create something fancy. In addition, Rodrigo Palacio and Martin Palermo kept the Milan backline on their toes, if they wanted to avoid another embarassing goal like the first.
At the restart, Ancelotti instructed his troops to push the midfield line forward, and have Seedorf come up support very close to the forwards line, which was now composed by Inzaghi and Kaká in re-molded attacking midfielder/second striker role. It did wonders for the Rossoneri, who took only 5 minutes after the break to get back into the lead: free-kick by Pirlo on the right wing, cross for Massimo Ambrosini who misses his control, ball rebounds to Alessandro Nesta who wastes little time and blasts it below the bar!! A rare goal for the ex-Azzurri defender, and 2-1 Milan.
Boca’s reaction to Milan’s newly re-taken lead was immediate, with Hugo Ibarra stamping the ball onto the post, with Dida well beaten. It was a miss which however cost dearly to the Argentines in terms of morale, because just a couple of minutes later Milan scored goal nº3 and virtually put their victory on ice. This time Kaká did everything himself, on yet another trademark devastating run forward: on the left wing, he dribbled 2-3 defenders in succession, went towards the goal line and with a difficult angle surprised Mauricio Caranta between his legs. 3-1 Milan.
At this point the game was dead and buried for Boca Juniors, but there was enough time left for Milan to put the ball in the net for a 4th time, after a lightning counter-attack move set up by Seedorf, and finalized by Inzaghi, with yet another Ricky Kaká touch in between. 4-1 Milan and bye bye Boca. The Argentines had the last word with an own goal of Ambrosini (given to Pablo Ledesma), and the referee decided to steal the show in the final minutes by sending off Kaladze and Ledesma for two separate hard challenges on Palermo and Kaká. Excessively severe, but the only sour note in an otherwise great night for the Rossoneri.
For the Best Pictures of the AC Milan victory in the 2007 Club World Cup final, AC Milan vs. Boca Juniors, visit mCalcio.com here.
Marco Pantanella writes for the mCalcio blog