Club World Cup Final versus River Plate: Did you know?

Juan Carlos Unzué and Luis Enrique watch from the sidelines in the semi-final / MIGUEL RUIZ
Ten juicy nuggets of information to get you in the mood for Sunday’s showdown in Yokohama

Barça will be vying for their third Club World Cup title and the third in six years on Sunday at 11.30am CET. The Catalans missed out on their only chance to win the old Intercontinental Cup in 1992 and also failed in their first attempt at the new version in 2006.

Leo Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves are the five members of the current team that were also involved in the previous victories in 2009 and 2011.

In eleven editions of the new Club World Cup, in which it is now not just the European and South American champions that take part, Barça and Corinthians (2000 and 2012) are the only teams to have collected the trophy more than once.

Bravo, Alba, Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Suárez, Munir, Sandro and Samper all made their Club World Cup debuts last Thursday in the 3-0 defeat of Guangzhou in the semi-final.

River Plate are chasing their first ever world title, although they did beat Steaua Bucharest to win the old Intercontinental Cup in 1986.

Eleven different players have worn the Barça and River Plate shirt at some point in their careers, and two of them will be there for the final in Yokohama. Mascherano played for the Buenos Aires club from 2000 and 2005, while Saviola is back at River after being at the Camp Nou from 2001 to 2004 and the 2006-07 season.

Luis Suárez’s hat-trick made him the first player to score a hat-trick in the Club World Cup. In fact, the only player to get three in a game in the old Intercontinental Cup was the legendary Pelé for Santos against Benfica in 1962.

The biggest win in a Club World Cup match is 4-0. Barça have won by that scoreline three times, once in the 2006 semi-final against Amèrica and in both the semi-final and final in 2011 against Al-Sadd and Santos.

The referee for the final will be Alireza Faghani of Iran. He’s been a FIFA official since 2008 and was in charge of the 2015 Asian Cup Final between South Korea and Australia.

If Barça win the trophy, what Iniesta will be collecting is a model designed in 2005 and which wrights 5-2 kg, is 50 cm high and has a 20 cm diameter base.


Match Preview: FC Barcelona v River Plate

The first ever meeting between two of the most widely supported clubs in the world / FCB
The European and South American champions face each other at 11.00am CET in Yokohama, Japan, with the FIFA Club World Cup trophy waiting for the winners

Previous meetings

15/08/28: River Plate 1-0 Barça

26/08/61: Barça 2-0 River Plate

09/07/64: River Plate 5-1 Barça

16/08/69: Barça 6-0 River Plate

After winning the Champions League earlier this year, Barça now have the chance to lift the FIFA Club World Cup trophy for the third time. To do that, they have to beat Libertadores Cup winners River Plate, but this is a game that the Buenos Aires giants have been anticipating for months. A fascinating encounter awaits at the 72,327 capacity International Stadium Yokohama.

Team News

Barça’s Leo Messi and Neymar both missed the semi-final, the former after an unexpected bout of renal colic and the latter due to a groin strain. However, the two strikers were able to join the rest of the team for training on Saturday and could well be ready in time for the final.

River Plate, whose squad is entirely Argentinian apart from four Uruguayans and one Colombian, have no injury concerns going into the match. According to competition rules, all 23 of a team’s players are eligible to play, so there will be no squad announcements on the day of the match.

Coaches’ viewpoint

A confident Luis Enrique was asked what he feels about playing a team that is billing this as one of the biggest matches in its history. “That can make you more dangerous or you play with greater tension” he said. On the possible atmosphere in the stadium, he added that “the more noise during the game the better. I don’t know if we will feel like the home side or not. I know that River Plate have brought lots of fans. …”

River boss Marcelo Gallardo described the game as “one of the most important in our history, because of who we are playing against.” But he is also being realistic about his team’s expectations, saying that “it would have to be a perfect game for us to have any chance. But although they have the best players, we have the heart.”

Form guide

After coming into the Club World Cup on the back of three draws, two in La Liga and one in the Champions League, Barça faced Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande in the semi-final. And although took a little time to get into their stride, they eventually sailed to a comfortable 3-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Luis Suárez.

Winning the Libertadores Cup earlier this year was a proud moment for River Plate, but their domestic form afterwards was less inspiring. They eventually finished ninth in the Argentinian league, 15 points behind champions Boca Juniors. River faced Sanfrecce Hiroshima of Japan in Wednesday’s Club World Cup semi-final, winning 1-0 thanks to a Lucas Alario goal after 72 minutes.[[DES_1]]


FC Barcelona are participating in the Club World Cup for the fifth time, and the fourth since the new format was introduced. After losing to Sao Paolo (Brazil) in the old Intercontinental Cup in 1992 and to Internacional (Brazil) in 2006, Pep Guardiola led the team to its first title against Estudiantes (Argentina) in 2009 and then again to a 4-0 defeat of Santos (Brazil) in 2011.

River are playing in the competition for the first time, although they twice appeared in the older version. In 1986 they won the title by beating Steaua Bucharest 1-0, but ten years later in 1996 lost to Juventus by the same score.

This is the first ever official meeting between the teams, but they have met before in friendlies, albeit not for 45 years. The Argentinians won both times they met in Buenos Aires (1928 and 1964), while in two preseason tournaments played in Spain (Cadiz, 1961 and Malaga, 1969) it was the Catalans that had the upper hand.


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Messi and Neymar train in the International Yokohama Stadium

Neymar and Messi training with the rest of the squad in Yokohama / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
In the final session before the game against River Plate, the Argentinian and the Brazilian take part alongside their team mates

We are moving into the final countdown for the 2015 Club World Cup final and Barça have now completed their final training session in the International Yokohama Stadium ahead of Sunday’s date with River Plate. The good news is that both Leo Messi and Neymar took part alongside their team mates. Both players missed the semi-final victory over Guangzhou Evergrande and their return means that Luis Enrique was only without the injured Douglas for Saturday’s workout.

The Barça coach and captain Andrés Iniesta both appeared cautiously optimistic with regards to the chances of Messi and Neymar appearing in the final on Sunday. “There is still a training session to go,” Luis Enrique reminded everyone in his press conference. The Argentine missed the game on Thursday with a renal colic problem whilst his Brazilian team mate injured his groin in the final training session before Barça’s final group game of the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen.

A decision on the fitness of Messi and Neymar will come closer the final itself as both Luis Enrique and Iniesta indicated. Meanwhile, the team has carried out their final session at the venue for the final, a ground that brings back great memories as it is where four years ago a side coached by Pep Guardiola won the Club’s second Club World Cup.

Luis Enrique: ‘Messi and Neymar getting better’

Luis Enrique in a press conference in Japan / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Barça coach expects an ‘attractive’ final against River Plate and explains that both the Argentine and the Brazilian are on the road to recovery

Luis Enrique appeared confident in front of the press in Yokohama as his team prepare for Sunday’s Club World Cup final against River Plate. “The team is in good shape. We were in good shape in Barcelona and we were good in the semi-final on Thursday and we will be in good shape for the final on Sunday.” The Barça boss added that the game against the Argentine club is “a very attractive final.”

There were plenty of questions on the subject of the availability of both Leo Messi and Neymar. Luis Enrique was clear in his reply: “They are fine and both are getting better.” The Asturian would not give any clears as to whether they would appear on Sunday: “There is still a training session to go and plenty of time before the game.”

The coach did not appear worried about being labelled favourites ahead of the final. He also highlighted the fact that River Plate would be going into one of the most important games in their history. “That can make you more dangerous or you play with greater tension.” He identified River’s strength as a ‘block’ as one of their positive characteristics.

About the possible atmosphere in the International Yokohama Stadium on Sunday, he commented: “The more noise during the game the better. I don’t know if we will be like the home side or not. I know that River Plate have brought lots of fans. The more atmosphere there is, the better for the players.”

To round off, he praised the support of the Club’s Japanese fans during the week in Yokohama. “We only have to walk out of the hotel to find people supporting us. We are grateful and it makes us feel good. Thanks to what we do on the field, people enjoy themselves,” he concluded.

Marcelo Gallardo: 'They have the players we have the heart'

River boss Gallardo in training on Friday / FIFA
The River Plate coach admits that ‘Barça are clear favourites and the best team in the world at the moment’

River Plate have no problems in labelling FC Barcelona as favourites for the Club World Cup in Japan just 24 hours before the two teams meet in the final in Yokohama. Marcelo Gallardo, coach of ‘los millionarios’, said in his pre-game press conference, “Barça have the best players and we have a great heart.”

The River Plate boss admitted: “I would like the team to have come into the final in better shape,” however, the Argentines are not throwing in the towel just yet though, Gallardo highlighting their “winning mentality” and their ability to be “intense and intelligent.” Nevertheless, he admitted that they would have to produce a “perfect game” to win.

Gallardo commented on Barça’s strength as a team beyond the players’ individual abilities. On the Messi-Suárez-Neymar combination he said: “We think all three will play, if they don’t then that is a bonus for us.”

Goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero, hero of the semi-final win over Sanrecce Hiroshima, added: “It’s a unique game for us. We will try to be up to the challenge and compete against the best team in the world and in history.”