ABU DHABI, UAE (December 19, 2009) As expected, FC Barcelona won the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup, 2-1, in overtime over Estudiantes de la Plata. It was expected because they are the reigning UEFA Champions League monarchs, La Liga champions, and Copa del Rey winners. It was expected because they have the reigning Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi wearing the No. 10 jersey and scoring winning goals with regularity.
It was expected because this is their time. They are at the top of their game, playing at a level currently unequaled by any other club in the world, including their arch rival, Real Madrid featuring Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.
It was not easy, nor was it pretty. But at the end, powered by a goal in overtime by their golden boy Messi—who chested a Daniel Alves' cross into the goal in the 110th minute—Barca won its first ever intercontinental club title in front of 43,050 fans at the Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Messi was relentless throughout the 120 minutes of play, displaying great energy and determination, plus a few flashes of brilliance with dazzling dribbling and speed. But it was his will power that made the difference on this day. Messi scored one of those seldom seen off-the-chest goals. It was sweet justice as the winning goal featured a soccer ball that literally bounced off the heart of a true champion.
Estudiantes had gone ahead in the 37th minute with a Mauro Boselli header as he craftily sneaked in between two Barcelona defenders.
Pedro then tied the match in the 88th minute on a triple header play. First, Juan Sebastian Veron defensively deflected the ball with his head further into Estudiantes' penalty kick area where Barcelona defender Gerard Pique headed the ball towards teammate Pedro, who then headed the ball over the Estudiantes goalkeeper’s outstretched arms for the equalizer.
Estudiantes from Argentina never really had a chance. They looked exhausted as the second half began and from there on out, they simply defended their lead and launched a few sporadic counterattacks.
FC Barcelona lost both of their previous intercontinental finals. In 2006, Internacional of Porto Alegre lifted the trophy, and Sao Paulo was the better side in the 1992 Toyota Cup.
Estudiantes’ loss was a heart breaker for Argentinean maestro play-maker Veron, one of the best play-makers of all-time and winner of numerous individual awards, including best player of the Americas. As “La Brujita” (Little Witch) is closing in on retirement, this appears to have been his last chance to win the lofty FIFA club title. This surely, will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the supremely talented passer and leader.
“SWEET THIERRY HENRY MOMENT”
One sweet moment for many of us soccer fans disgusted with Mr. Thierry "My Shameless Hand Ball Helped to Eliminate Ireland from the World Cup” Henry, was when, in the 81st minute, the French international faked being fouled and tripped just outside the Estudiantes penalty area. Referee Armando Archundia did not hesitate to flash a yellow card for diving on Henry’s nonchalant face. Sweet moment, indeed! Good to see the slick and talented Frenchman get caught and punished at least once in a while.
As for the infamous Henry "Ireland handball," a reminder to all that the real problem was not really Henry (he did what most other players would do). The deeper problem is FIFA's resistance to introduce video technology to review controversial plays like that. It is time for FIFA to get up to date with the usage of the latest technology. If thriving leagues like the NFL, the NBA and MLB use it, why can't FIFA?
Perhaps one way to begin would be to consider using video reviews for the FIFA World Cup finals and WC qualifying matches only. Maintaining the status quo regarding controversial plays like handballs or doubtful referee calls regarding the ball crossing the goal line is no longer acceptable.