Monday, December 19, 2005

Sao Paulo crowned FIFA's Club World Champions

South American champions Sao Paulo FC of Brazil took the FIFA Club World Championship Toyota Cup Japan 2005 by beating European champions Liverpool of England 1-0 at International Stadium Yokohama, Japan, yesterday. Sao Paulo midfielder Mineiro latched on to a long ball from Fabao and fired home the game's only goal in the 27th minute, helping his team bring home the trophy as the No. 1 club in the world.

Earlier in the day, CONCACAF champions Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica downed Asian champions Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia 3-2 to come in third in the revamped Toyota Cup. Oceania champions Sydney FC of Australia downed African champions Al Ahly of Egypt 2-1 to finish fifth on Friday.

Leading the awards announced on the final day of the competitions was Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, who had to make some sharp saves from Liverpool's 21-shot attack, and earned the adidas Golden Ball and the Toyota Award. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) won the adidas Silver Ball; and Christian Bolanos (Deportivo Saprissa) won the adidas Bronze Ball. Liverpool won the Fair Play Award.

Doubts had been raised about the timing of the championship, which replaced the traditional one-off game between the European and South Americans champions by also including winners from Africa, Asia, Oceania and CONCACAF. Crowds over the seven games only averaged around 33,000, although the final was a near 70,000 sell-out and Fifa president Sepp Blatter was a happy man. "It showed that the leading clubs are not only in Europe and South America," he told AFP.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said he was not complaining about the tournament, despite it being held in the middle of an already busy season. "It deserves to be a big tournament with extremely tough qualification: how else would you measure the best," he said. "We are proud to be here."

Earlier in the week, Liverpool CEO Rick Parry had thanked the Japanese for the warm welcome accorded the Liverpool team on their arrival. "We are here for competitive reasons, not commercial," Parry said, as quoted by Henry Winter in The Telegraph. "This is not about raising revenue. We are conscious of our huge fan-base. We were here in Asia in 2001 and 2003 and were impressed by the depth of our support."

Reuters also reported Parry's comment that "This trip is more about reinforcing the link with our supporters" and "Our single aim is to take the trophy home. It's about winning things and it's better to be here in a competitive environment."

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