Ronaldinho’s Atlético Mineiro Could Upset Bayern Munich At Club World Cup

Ronaldinho

So, it’s here again: the competition that we all couldn’t care less about but the rest of the world seems to love. Yes, the Club World Cup is back, this year featuring the star-studded cast of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, the Ronaldinho-inspired Atlético Mineiro, and, erm, Raja Casablanca and Auckland City (among others). But what can we expect from the winter tournament, this year held in the not too wintry Morocco?

Club World Cup Betting Odds

Bayern Munich – 1.20

Atlético Mineiro – 6.00

Any other winner – 11.00

(Odds provided by Intertops Sportsbook are current as of today but subject to change.)

Bayern are obvious favourites; even with Guardiola pooh-poohing the tournament last week, and even with Arjen Robben possibly out with an injured knee (suffered in said match), it’s hard to look past a team four points clear in the Bundesliga and three points ahead of Manchester City in their Champions League group. Though Corinthians defeated Chelsea in last year’s final, Bayern have no hapless Torres equivalent. You can expect the trophy to head back to UEFA this time out, as it has for five of the last six Club World Cups.

Which is not to say there won’t be competition. Brazilian side and Copa Libertadores (or, as Mark Bright calls it, the ‘Libera Copertadores’) holders Atlético Mineiro will be Bayern’s most serious challengers, their attacking options a match for any side on their day. Though Bernard, a key player in that Libertadores winning side, has departed for Shakhtar Donetsk, the club can still call on the returning Ronaldinho (of which little more needs to be said), the rapid Diego Tardelli, and former Manchester City striker Jô, who, despite what you might have seen at City and Everton, is actually rather good. They’re also seeded and will enter at the semi-final stage, which helps.

And, if in need of a dark horse, look no further than the Egyptians Al-Ahly. Victory over South African side Orlando Pirates last month in Cairo meant an emotional African Champions League victory: their second since the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, the Port Said Stadium disaster in 2012, and the suspending of the domestic league. If one man sums up Al-Ahly, it’s Mohamed Aboutrika, one of Africa’s finest footballers and an icon in Egypt. Not only is he a star on the field, he’s one off it, too: when lifting the CAF trophy, he wore the number 72 on his shirt, a dedication to the 72 Al-Ahly fans killed in suspicious circumstances at Port Said. After a glittering career, he retires after this tournament. He’ll be looking to end on a high, and after five African Champions League titles, two Africa Cup of Nations trophies, and an African Footballer of the Year accolade, he is a man used to winning.

Completing the line-up, we have Guangzhou Evergrande, managed by Marcello Lippi and captained by former Charlton legend (maybe pushing it, there) Zheng Zhi; Monterrey, CONCACAF Champions League winners blessed with the presence of the ageless Humberto Suazo up front (he’s not ageless, he’s 32—though I figured much older since I’ve bought him in about each of the last 10 Football Manager games); Raja Casablanca, who gain entry by virtue of being league champions in the tournament’s host country; and Auckland City, coming back to the Club World Cup for the third time in a row and spearheaded by Adam Dickinson, a Scouse-born centre forward plucked from the Welsh league.

Perhaps most excitingly of all, however, FIFA say that that magic free kick spray stuff will be used to make sure defensive walls stay 10 yards back from the ball.

Welcome back, Club World Cup. Hello, revolution.

Betting Instinct Tip: Al-Ahly to shock Guangzhou Evergrande on Saturday is 4.60 with GR88.com

Kieran avatarKIERAN DODDS is a history student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and others.

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