Bayern Munich are just one win away from a fifth trophy in 2013 but standing in their way is Cinderella side Raja Casablanca.
The FIFA Club World Cup final pits together David vs. Goliath with both clubs making their debut in the last two of FIFA’s premier club competition.
|Dec. 21, 19:30 (GMT)||Marrakech||Bayern Munich vs. Raja Casablanca|
The UEFA Champions League winners booked their place in Saturday’s final with a 3-0 victory over Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, but Raja have paved a more dramatic path through the tournament.
The Moroccan club, who currently languish mid-table in the GNF 1—Morocco’s top division—with 16 points from 11 games, have had something of a dream run in their home country.
Under the tutelage of new boss Faouzi Benzarti, Raja opened the competition with a 2-1 win against Auckland City before upsetting Mexico's Monterrey 2-1 after extra time.
While Raja impressed in their opening two games there weren't many giving them a chance against Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro in the semi-final.
The Copa Libertadores holders were hoping to emulate compatriots Corinthians by winning the title this year, but they were caught cold by Raja, three times in fact, to go crashing out of the tournament at the first hurdle.
Not content with a chunk of turf or a corner flag to remember the historic win, Raja Casablanca went after pieces of Ronaldinho:
Raja, who qualified for the tournament as a result of winning the host nation’s domestic league, face an entirely different challenge in the final with Bayern Munich arguably the world’s top club team.
When the game kicks off in Marrakech, Raja will find themselves up against a side with very little weaknesses, but star player Mouhssine Iajour is thinking positively.
“The dream is far from over yet and we’ll be giving it all we have against Bayern, right up to the final whistle,” Iajour told FIFA.com. “We never give up. This team has got so much mental strength to draw on.”
Teammate Chemseddine Chtibi added: “It’s like having the whole of Morocco behind us. You can achieve the most amazing things with support like that.”
For Bayern, Saturday’s showdown will be business as usual. They have a talented and experienced squad who are no strangers to the big occasion.
The German champions, whose manager Pep Guardiola won this event with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, will know that close to their best will be good enough but they won’t be taking Raja for granted.
The Moroccan side will have a partisan following behind them in Marrakech and that can go a long way in football.
Speaking to FIFA.com after the win over Guangzhou, Bayern’s young star Mario Goetze said, “Getting to the final was a must—it gives us the opportunity to get our hands on another trophy. The match will definitely be tough, no matter which team we face. I hope it’ll be us lifting the trophy by the end of the game.”
Bayern are calling their bid for a fifth piece of silverware this year "Mission 5". They are the current Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, Champions League and UEFA Super Cup holders, and a title in North Africa would cap off a remarkable 2013.