ABU DHABI: Cristiano Ronaldo scored with a free kick which went through the defensive wall to break Gremio’s brave resistance as Real Madrid picked up a fifth trophy of 2017 by beating the South American champions 1-0 on Saturday to retain the Club World Cup.
The Ballon d’Or winner fired his right-footed shot between two players in Gremio’s defensive wall, leaving goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe no hope of reaching the ball before it bounced inside the post in the 53rd minute.
“Ronaldo is always there at the key moments,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Nobody can do what he does.”
A third Club World Cup in four years brings Real level with rivals Barcelona as the most successful side in the competition’s history and adds to the La Liga, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup titles already won by Zidane’s men this year.
Ronaldo celebrated the goal by rushing to Real’s dugout where he was embraced by his team-mates. The goal increased Ronaldo’s record to seven goals in the competition. He also scored in Real’s 2-1 comeback win over Al Jazira in the semi-finals.
“We wanted to win because Real Madrid have never won five trophies in one year,” said Ronaldo. “I think we played a very good game and deserved to win.”
Ronaldo has now scored 15 goals in 20 appearances for Real this season despite a slow start in La Liga.
“What am I going to say? The numbers speak for themselves,” added the Portuguese. “I give my answers on the pitch. The team were phenomenal and it is another trophy for the CV.”
The European champions, enjoying the backing of most neutrals at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, dominated as expected, with 20 shots on goal to Gremio’s one, but the much more limited Brazilians still made their lives uncomfortable.
Overall, it was the Spanish club’s sixth world title as they also won the old Intercontinental Cup — now recognised by FIFA — three times.
Real also extended European dominance with 10 wins out of 13 since the club cup was started in its current form in 2005, reflecting the region’s financial dominance in the sport.
European clubs have won 10 of the last 11 Club World Cups, with only Brazil’s Corinthians interrupting that streak in 2012 when they defeated Chelsea.
The dynamics of modern football mean that the best South American, Asian and African players line up against, rather than for, the teams from their own continents, and Real’s side on Saturday included Brazilians Marcelo and Casemiro.
Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi won the old International Cup as a player with the same club in 1983 when his two goals gave them a 2-1 win over Hamburg SV but a repeat never looked on the cards.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has admitted the tournament needs a revamp and wants to replace it with a new one featuring up to 24 teams.
“The ball never forgives you,” said Renato. “We conceded a goal from a free kick, where the ball went through the middle of the wall. It happens.
We showed that we can play on equal terms with any team. They are a machine but we left with our heads high.”
Earlier, Mexican side Pachuca beat hosts Al Jazira 4-1 in the third-place play-off.
Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2017