FC Barcelona's Club World Cup Success: Was There Ever Any Doubt?
FC Barcelona convincingly beat Santos this weekend to clinch the FIFA Club World Cup trophy and win their third trophy of the 2011-12 season. This Club World Cup title was possibly FC Barcelona's easiest title yet under Pep Guardiola.
Though the loss of David Villa to long term injury was highly unfortunate and distressing for Pep Guardiola and Barca fans, the actual games played were nothing of the sort.
FC Barcelona easily outclassed Al Sadd 4-0 in their first match in the Club World Cup, and then repeated that scoreline against Santos, a team which some thought would actually cause FC Barcelona some trouble.
This all raises the question: Is there a legitimate reason for the Club World Cup to exist, or is it just a poor waste of FIFA resources?
Proponents of the competition have stated that it is taken seriously by all involved, and allows fans of the beautiful game to watch the best teams and players from around the world, not just from Europe.
But these arguments have multiple flaws. First, the competition is taken seriously, to a significant extent, because of the amount of money involved.
What team in the world would turn down the opportunity to take home $5 million for winning two matches against comparatively weak opposition? Not even FC Barca can say no to getting so much money for so little work.
And even if they were to lose, the competition still dishes out $4 million to the runner-ups, and a healthy $2.5 million and $2 million to third and fourth, respectively.
Secondly, the competition has been incredibly predictable since its inception.
The competition has only once ever had a non-South American, non-European finalist, and that finalist, TP Mazembe (from Africa), was easily swept away by a struggling Inter Milan side in the 2010 Club World Cup Final.
What makes the competition even more predictable is how dominated by Europe it has become. The last five Club World Cups have been won by a European team, and it hasn't been a close final game in the last two tournaments.
Thirdly, the competition's basis is rather flawed to begin with. In modern world football, the best footballers leave their respective countries to ply their trade with the best European club they can get into.
There are a handful of exceptions, like Mohamed Aboutreika, who shined at 2006 Club World Cup, or Neymar and Ganso, who have yet to leave Santos (but surely will very soon).
But generally speaking, the biggest names from non-European countries in the Club World Cup tend to be the ex-European stars who have returned home to wind down their careers, like Juan Sebastien Veron or Juan Roman Riquelme.
Are we to expect that such players will be able to lead their teams to success against the star-studded UEFA Champions League winners which are invited to the competition each year?
Lastly, the format of the tournament is inherently unfair. Before Santos had even stepped onto a pitch in Japan, Kashiwa Reysol had already played two full games, and were playing their third game in the span of six days when they took on Santos.
How can a team be expected to emerge victorious under such circumstances?
Yes, Santos are the higher quality team, but surely Kashiwa Reysol deserved the opportunity to start the match on equal footing as the Brazilian giants?
Why even bother with a whole tournament if you're going to bias the competition to where the South American and European team, who are already favorites to reach the final, are given an additional advantage over their opponents from the other confederations?
After a tournament in which FC Barcelona barely had to break a sweat to bag $5 million and return home with the trophy in hand, FIFA ought to take a close look at the Club World Cup and see what they're really trying to get out of it.
If they just want to see the Copa Libertadores and UEFA Champions League winners battle it out, maybe it would be best to return to the single match format of the Intercontinental Cup.
If they want to broaden the appeal of the beautiful game and truly make it fair for all the confederations involved, then maybe it would be best to return to the group stage format utilized in 2000, with eight teams involved instead of seven.
How Should the Club World Cup Be Changed?
Minor revisions, such as cutting group games from three to two and allowing the top two teams in each group to progress instead of the top one, could make this an effective solution.
But, as things stand, the entire competition just seems like a way for FIFA to give fake recognition to the other confederations of the world, while continuing to throw money at South America and Europe without making them actually earn it.
To me, that just sounds like a waste of time, money and resources for everyone else involved.
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