Magnificent Barcelona are World Champions Once MoreDecember 18, 2011
Barcelona lifted the Club World Cup after thrashing Santos FC 4-0 in Yokohama on Sunday. In a constantly one-sided encounter Guardiola’s men created chance after chance, hitting the post twice and forcing numerous close-range saves from Santos’ overworked goalkeeper. Messi got two, and was joined on the scoresheet by Xavi and Cesc.
Guardiola appears to haven chosen this match as an international platform for his 3-4-3 formation – Abidal, Piqué and Puyol lined up across the back. Somewhat unusual was the sight of Dani Alves very high and wide on the right, while Thiago took up similar position on the opposite flank. In between were Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc and Messi, interchanging more than the Brazilian opposition could handle.
With just ten minutes gone the chances began to flow for Barcelona. Messi had an effort from range, which was parried by Rafael into Thiago’s path, but his shot could also only find Santos’ ‘keeper. Shortly after Barcelona were ahead – there was a triangle between Messi, Cesc and Xavi, which resulted in a fabulous through ball by Barça’s captain for Messi, who took his time and dinked a chip over Rafael to open the scoring.
Barcelona doubled their lead no more than five minutes later. Dani Alves, who looked dangerous throughout the half, broke free down the right and crossed low for Xavi, who took one touch just inside the area to evade Bruno, and drilled a shot low to Rafael’s left side.
A great opportunity then followed for Messi – this time he was released by Cesc, but a last-second intervention by Edu Dracena kept him out. This chance was followed by Santos’ only attack of note – playmaker Ganso slipped Borges through, but Valdés reacted quickly to gather his shot.
Directly after, Cesc nearly made it 3-0. To everyone’s surprise the midfielder had stayed onside to collect yet another sublime Xavi pass, but he could only hit the post from close range.
As the half drew to a close, Barcelona did extend their lead – Alves found Messi in the area to spark a scramble that ended when Cesc added the killer touch from six yards to cap a half in which Barcelona played some of their most consistently incisive football of the season.
Within seconds of the restart Barcelona were troubling Santos’ defence once again. Messi set up Cesc and Rafael produced the save of the match to push his shot just past the post. He was then in action soon after to save a close-range Messi effort with his legs.
Midway through the second half Barça sensed that the job was done and attacked with a little less intensity. In this spell Santos had their best chance, when Neymar was set free by Ganso, but Valdés was quick off his line to close the space and preserve the clean-sheet.
Messi then killed the game off, collecting the ball from Alves skipping over Rafael with his second touch and slotting home into the empty net.
0-1 Messi (min 17)
0-2 Xavi (min 24)
0-3 Cesc (min 45)
0-4 Messi (min 82)