Barça still hungry after world triumph

Barça still hungry after world triumph

YOKOHAMA - Agence France-Presse
Barça still hungry after world triumph

Barcelona players celebrate another trophy by throwing coach Pep Guardiola into the air. The Catalan coach led Barcelona to a total of 13 trophies in his fourth season. AP photo

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has Spanish title rivals Real Madrid and European glory firmly back in his sights after a trip to the Far East that yielded another world crown.

Guardiola sealed the 13th title of his glittering three-and-a-half-year reign on Dec. 18 when the
Catalans overpowered South American champions Santos 4-0, with Lionel Messi bagging a classy double.

It was the perfect launchpad for 2012, Guardiola said, after a weekend on which Real Madrid went three points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a thumping 6-2 win at Sevilla.
European champions arrived in Japan last week after an impressive 3-1 win away at Real took them back to the top of the league in Spain.

“It will be a surprise for me if the team gives up,” Guardiola said of his side, countering suggestions that after so much success his players could struggle for motivation.

His men strive to “keep going forward”, he said. “For us, our target is to play great football for the crowd, fight for the Spanish league and travel around Europe to show people our level.”
“The success is all about the great players and their effort,” he said.

But the 40-year-old admitted that his star-studded side’s latest triumph had come at a cost after striker David Villa, linked with a move away from the Nou Camp before his injury, fractured his shin in the semi-final against Al-Sadd.

He is likely to be out for up to five months, meaning he will likely miss most, if not all, of the rest of the season.

Guardiola said in the immediate aftermath of Villa’s injury that it was “not respectful” to talk about the possibility of Barcelona buying a replacement in the winter transfer window.

“His injury was the most unfortunate thing of this tournament, but I am sure that he will return to the team soon,” the coach said.

South American champions Santos was well beaten by Guardiola’s team.

The Brazilians were 3-0 down at the break after goals from Messi, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas, and although they put up a spirited performance in the second half, it could not mask their shortcomings, particularly at the back.

The annual intercontinental tournament is hugely important in South America and coach Muricy Ramalho will face criticism when his side arrives home but he insisted there was no disgrace despite the defeat.

“Barcelona have played various teams around the world and nobody can beat them. Eventually some team may, but I don’t think it’s possible now,” he said. “This was not embarrassing and it was not a blow to us. We need to be humble -- we were beaten by the best team in the world,” he said, adding Messi was the best but that Neymar would one day take that title.

The 19-year-old striker Neymar, who has been linked with many of the top sides in the world including Barca, had a mixed tournament for Santos.

Pele has said his fellow Brazilian is better than Messi, but the little Argentine stole the headlines and the glory in the final with his two goals, while Neymar fluffed two chances on a night to forget.
The third place play-off had a competitive edge with Al Sadd and Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol battling it out for the unofficial title of best team in Asia. On Dec. 18, Al-Sadd won 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Mexican side Monterrey took fifth place by beating Esperance of Tunisia, while part-timers Auckland City took the wooden spoon.