Real Madrid’s first foray into the FIFA Club World Cup was as easy as it looked.
Real Madrid trounced Mexican club Cruz Azul 4-0 on Tuesday to clinch a place in the Club World Cup final Saturday. Real Madrid has never won the club World Cup, and the emphatic win over Cruz Azul shows that the Spanish giant means business in Morocco.
Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, and Isco scored the goals for Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo’s name is conspicuously absent from the list — only because he was too busy setting up his teammates (as he has done with understated regularity in 2014-15) or trying to score bicycle kicks or rabonas on the half-volley.
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Real Madrid, the reigning king of Europe, simply out-classed Cruz Azul. The Mexican club was hoping to become the first from its country to reach the Club World Cup final, but it is weaker than the version that won the CONCACAF Champions League in April and was clearly exhausted after needing 120 minutes to beat the Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.
Cruz Azul lost to a better team, but it had its chances to stay in the game. Gerardo Torrado could have cut Real Madrid’s lead in half from the penalty spot in the 40th minute, but he shot too close to goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who saved a penalty kick for the second-straight game. Cruz Azul was still lamenting the first-half missed opportunities when Bale scored five minutes into the second period. For Cruz Azul, it was all downhill from there.
But it was showtime for Real Madrid, who thrilled the crowd at the Grand Stade de Marrakech with their tricks, lightning-quick counter-attacks and overall excellence, albeit against a demoralized and defeated foe. Isco capped the win with a goal that might stand as the best of the tournament.
Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal also deserve mention for their outstanding performances, as do Cruz Azul wingers Joao Rojas and Pablo Barrera, who tormented Marcelo throughout.
The victory over Cruz Azul extended Real Madrid’s winning streak to 21 games in all competitions, and Carlo Ancelotti’s team is closing in on Coritiba’s record (the Brazilian club won 24 straight between February and May 2011). A loss in the final — against the winner of South American champion, San Lorenzo, and Oceania’s Auckland City — would shatter Real Madrid’s streak and end its hopes of ending the year with a first-ever world championship.
Don’t count on it happening. Ancelotti substituted Ramos in the second half after the Real Madrid defender suffered a minor thigh injury. Ramos’ exit was precautionary, and he expects to play Saturday. Real Madrid has an embarrassment of riches, and its players — royalty in the soccer world — are more than willing to share the wealth among each other for the sake of winning over and over again.
Thumbnail photo via Abdeljalil Bounhar/The Associated Press