Rafael Benitez’s side will play Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in Wednesday’s semi final as they bid to become world club champions.
AFC Champions League winners, Seongnam, beat Al Wahda 4-1 in Saturday’s quarter final. The South Korean club are making their debut on the world stage after loosing out in 2003, courtesy of Al Ittihad beating them 6-3 in the AFC Champions League final.
The lowest ranked side in the tournament, Hekari United, failed at the first hurdle. The side from Papa New Guinea came into the tournament as the underdogs and this label was cemented as they lost 3-0 in the “qualifying” quarter final match.
Other competitors include Club de Futbol Pachuca from Mexico, TP Mazembe Englebert of Congo DR and the well-respected Brazilian outfit, Internacional.
Although Inter Milan have been made favourites to win this years trophy, Internacional are not far behind.
Internacional’s place in the competition was secured following a semi-final victory against Sao Paolo in the Copa Libertadores. Their final opponents, Guadalajara, were invitees of the Copa Libertadores and there Concacaf status meant they were unable to be a representative of Conmebol at the event. Despite this, Internacional still secured the place after beating the Mexicans 5-3 on aggregate.
The widely expected outcome is a tongue twister of a final. Internazionale are expected to play Internacional in Abu Dhabi.
After recent defeats at the hands of Werder Bremen and Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, and loosing to Lazio in Serie A, Benitez is under pressure to deliver in the tournament that is known for producing a European winner.
Fabio Capello has been lniked with the Inter hotseat and will fly out to Abu Dhabi to watch the tournament, sparking speculation over his England future.
In the past three years, Barcelona, Manchester United and AC Milan have all lifted the trophy after years of South American domination. Internacional lifted the trophy in 2006 after beating Barcelona and prooving that they are no jokes in this years competiiton. Sao Paolo and Corinthians also lifted the tophy in the two years prior to that, defeating European opposition on their way.
The final will take place this Saturday with a full-strength Inter Milan side (on the basis that they qualify) there for the challenge. Not only will it be a chance to add to the Inter Milan trophy cabinet, it will bring Benitez some welcome praise since his abysmal start as Inter Milan manager.