Corinthians refuse cup favorite status
NAGOYA, Japan - Agence France-Presse
Veteran player Emerson participates to a Corinthians training session. AP photo
Corinthians coach Tite insisted on Dec. 7 that the South American champion was not favorite to win the Club World Cup, despite Chelsea’s recent run of poor form.
The Brazilians, led by key players Alessandro and Paulinho, won the Copa Libertadores in July, mirroring the London club’s achievement in Europe two months earlier by becoming continental champions for the first time.
Chelsea has been on the slide in recent weeks though and come into the seven-team intercontinental tournament on the back of a Champions league exit at the group stage - the first time the holder has suffered such an ignominy.
Two goalless draws and a surprise 3-1 thrashing by West Ham have put interim manager Rafael Benitez under pressure just two weeks after replacing Roberto Di Matteo, who led the Blues to that historic victory against Bayern Munich in May.
“I don’t believe (those) past results will determine what’s going to happen in these games,” said Tite, whose side enters the tournament in Japan at the semifinal stage next week.
“What I believe is you have to play 90 minutes in the first game and 90 minutes in the second game. The degree of difficulty and the pressure is the same (for everyone).”
Corinthians will play either J-League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima or Al Ahly of Egypt in Toyota, close to Nagoya.
Chelsea will line up against Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai or Monterrey of Mexico, who plays in the quarterfinals, in Yokohama near Tokyo.
“We don’t believe a certain team are the favourites to win the cup,” the 51-year-old Tite added.
“This is the sort of tournament where every game has to be decided. There is a chance for everybody.”
“There are no favourites attached to Corinthians or Chelsea, or even Al Ahly.”
The Brazilian said his team, the first undefeated Copa Libertadores winners since 1978, would have to be at the top of their game if it is to achieve its objective of progressing to the final and winning the showpiece event.
“We know about our power. We know about our responsibility (towards South America). We came here to go to the final but we know that the first game is going to be a very tough match.
“We are prepared to play for 90 minutes with very little margin for error.”
Corinthians won the first edition of the FIFA Club World Championship on home soil in 2000. After a four-year hiatus, the Championship returned in 2005 before being relaunched as the Club World Cup the following year.