Club World Cup final: Fluminense ready for 'best team in the world' Manchester City

Brazilian manager Diniz says City still a dangerous side despite absence of Haaland and De Bruyne

Fluminense's John Kennedy with coach Fernando Diniz. Reuters
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Fluminense manager Fernando Diniz says his side are dreaming of defeating “the best team in the world” when they meet Manchester City in Friday’s Fifa Club World Cup final, describing it as “the most important game of my life”.

The Brazilian, who is also currently caretaker manager of the Brazil national team, leads out the South Americans against Pep Guardiola’s treble winners at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, where both clubs chase a first global title in their respective histories.

Like City, this week marks Fluminense’s debut in the Club World Cup, their place in Saudi Arabia sealed by last month’s Copa Libertadores success - also a first for the Sao Paulo side.

Speaking on Thursday, at the pre-match press conference in Jeddah, Diniz said: “Fluminense will play like a team that believes in its values and believes that anything is possible. When we play football, the first thing you have to have is confidence that you can win. I always went in with the intention of winning the game.

“Fluminense will do everything possible to win. We're going to face the best team in the world, but that doesn't stop us from dreaming and doing our best. What we're going to do tomorrow is be the best we can be.”

Fluminense set up the showpiece encounter by defeating Egypt’s Al Ahly in Monday’s semi-final. Jhon Arias and John Kennedy got the goals in the 2-0 victory against the African champions.

“It’s the most important game of my life,” Diniz said. “The next game is always the most important. It also happens to be the most unique game historically: a world title decider, against one of the best teams in the history of world football and one of the greatest coaches.”

Given his preference for playing "tiki-taka" football, Diniz has earned the moniker of the “Brazilian Guardiola”. The former Fluminense midfielder, 49, is back at the club in his second stint as manager.

“What brings us closer [in style] is making the team play collectively,” Diniz said. “The way to build tactically is not the most important thing in football. The idea of collectively attacking and collectively defending is what brings us together.”

On that, Diniz played down the effect the absence of Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne will have on City. Both players have been training with the English and European champions in Jeddah, but given they were not named in the matchday squad for Tuesday’s semi-final win against Urawa Red Diamonds, are ineligible on Friday.

However, Diniz said: “What works in Manchester City is the collective factor. The big thing for me, although they have the best in the world, is the way they connect.”

Updated: December 21, 2023, 3:48 PM