The 2015 FIFA Club World Cup concluded with Barcelona defeating Argentina’s River Plate 3-0 in Yokohama in front of a 66,853 crowd, thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and a second-half double from Luis Suarez. It was a historic journey for the 2015 UEFA Champions League winners, who became the first club to be crowned world champions on three separate occasions, adding to their 2009 and 2011 triumphs.
Barça sealed their place in the final after their opening 3-0 victory against Guangzhou Evergrande, when Suarez broke new ground by becoming the first player to net a hat-trick in the competition’s history. The Uruguayan’s record-breaking antics did not stop there, however, as the 28-year-old went on to net twice in the final, making him the first player to score five goals in the competition’s history.
Auckland’s exit, Argentina invade
Followers of the FIFA Club World Cup only had to wait nine minutes for the tournament’s opening goal, which came through an error from Jacob Spoonley. Auckland City’s No1 failed to make a regulation save, parrying the ball into the path of Yusuke Minagawa, who gratefully stabbed home. Substitute Shiotani put the game beyond any doubt 20 minutes from time with a deflected strike which went through the keeper’s legs, ensuring an early exit for the OFC champions.
Sanfrecce similarly strolled through their next game, a quarter-final against TP Mazembe in Osaka. With coach Hajime Moriyasu concerned about physical and mental fatigue, as well as injuries to key players, many neutrals felt this match was too close to call, but the J.League champions’ heavy legs made light work of their opponents as goals from Shiotani, Chiba and Asano set up a semi-final clash with River Plate.
Despite the ‘home’ advantage, the stadium was filled with supporters bedecked in red and white who had come from South America. They brought their songs, they brought their banners, they brought their passion. Ultimately they were rewarded with a win thanks to Lucas Alario’s 72nd-minute goal, but the Copa Libertadores winners did not have things their own way. On several occasions, they were saved by Marcelo Barovero who produced stunning saves to help send his side through to the final.
Barcelona’s qualifier for the semi-finals was their UEFA Champions League success over Juventus, but Guangzhou’s progression was even more dramatic than the Europeans’ 3-1 win in Berlin back in May.
A goal down against CONCACAF champions Club America in the quarter-final with ten minutes to go, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s substitutes combined to devastating effect. First Lin Gao's excellent hold-up play and cute lay-off allowed Long Zheng to score the equaliser, and then Yu Hanchao's delivery from a corner kick was inch-perfect for Paulinho to score in the final minute of added time.
Scolari urged his players to ‘dare to dream’ and believe in the build-up to the game, but found the Spanish side simply too much on a chilly evening in Yokohama, in a game that will be remembered for Suarez’s hat trick. Indeed, the Uruguayan’s treble was the first in global club competition since Pele’s in Santos’ famous 5-2 win over Benfica back in 1962.
The curtain raiser to the final saw Scolari given a taste of his own medicine as Hajime Moriyasu’s changes spurred Sanfrecce Hiroshima to come from behind. After Brazilian striker Paulinho opened the scoring for Scolari’s men, two second-half goals from Douglas ensured Sanfreece Hiroshima won the bronze in the match for third place, before Barcelona’s showdown with River Plate in the final.
When: 10-20 December 2015
Final: Barcelona 3-0 River Plate
Goals: 21 (average of 2.63 per game)
Total attendance: 272,312 (average of 34,039 per game)