Gremio only have eyes on Fifa Club World Cup title as Everton targets Real Madrid showdown
South American champions await the winners of the semi-final between European champions Madrid and host representatives Al Jazira.
Gremio have not achieved anything yet as they set sights on winning a first Fifa Club World Cup, according to manager Renato Portaluppi.
The Brazilian side, making their debut in the tournament, defeated Mexico’s Pachuca 1-0 in extra-time of their last-four clash at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night. Substitute Everton scored the winner in the 95th minute.
As the recently crowned Copa Libertadores champions, Gremio were the last team to confirm their place in the UAE. They will now contest Saturday’s final at the Zayed Sports City stadium, where they will face either Real Madrid or host representatives Al Jazira. Those two sides meet in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.
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Having won as a player the tournament in its previous incarnation, in 1983, Portaluppi insists he is focused only on guiding his charges to repeat the feat some 34 years on.
“Regardless of who we’re playing against, a lot of people think Gremio has reached their main goal: to reach the final,” he said. “I don’t think this way. This is not what we’re here for.
“I’m a world champion and of course I want my team to win the same championship again. Most of the players in our group want to reach this objective in the Club World Cup. I don’t want us to think that we have already done everything we had to.
“The supporters might be happy now that we won the Copa Libertadores, and went through the semi-final and reached the final, which was very important for us. They can be sure we will fight a lot for this title. If we can’t get it, it’s fine, but as long as we’re playing in this championship we’re going to do our best to get the title.”
Portaluppi said he is confident his players will improve for Saturday’s final having laboured against Pachuca on the back of a difficult schedule in the build-up to the Club World Cup. They took on Argentina’s Lanus in the Copa Libertadores showpiece across two legs in the final week of last month, eventually winning 2-1 on aggregate.
It was a third South American crown for the Porto Alegre side, but first since 1995. Understandably, everything that went into that campaign - Gremio played 14 matches en route to the title - and all that has gone since has sapped a considerable amount of energy.
“It’s always very tiring for any team to play 120 minutes,” Portaluppi said. “At the end of the year all the players are tired. It’s very hard for all of us, considering the amount of matches we played throughout the year.
"Again, the team is very tired, we had so many matches this year and so the psychological aspect is not at it’s best. So of course it’s very hard for all of them. We had to overcome all those difficulties and now we are in the final.
"I agree that it was not the same way we played during the Copa Libertadores, but whoever knows Gremio knows we play much more than we did today. Even though we did not play as well as we could, we still reached the final, which means we can do much better in the final.”
Meanwhile, goalscorer Everton wishes now that his team do battle with Madrid, the defending champions, for the trophy.
“It’s the final we’ve been dreaming about since the season started and since the Libertadores,” he said. “It’s the final we want. We know they’re massive stars of world football, but on the pitch it’s 11 versus 11 and let’s just see who wins. We’re going to try and match them.”
Updated: December 13, 2017 05:19 PM