Bayern looking to end 2013 with another trophy

Posted by Susie Schaaf

It was supposed to be a foregone conclusion: Atletico Mineiro and Bayern Munich would face each other in the FIFA Club World Cup final at Morocco's Stade de Marrakech. It was not a far stretch, actually, considering every other final -- save one (2010's Internazionale vs. TP Mazembe) -- has featured the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores champion and UEFA's Champions League winner.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Marrakech. Atletico Mineiro blew it.

The Brazilian champion out of Belo Horizonte were complacent (there's that word again), and tournament host Raja Casablanca beat Mineiro 3-1 on the counter. Not even the singular brilliance of a Ronaldinho free kick could deny Casablanca their date with destiny.

How seriously the tournament is taken has been bandied about over social media in the last couple of days, as no one expected minnow Raja to actually get through. But they did, beating Auckland City 2-1 in the playoff match, and Monterrey 2-1 in extra time, before overturning Mineiro 3-1 to face Bayern on Saturday.

Both Bayern Munich and Atletico Mineiro had byes until the semifinals.

As European football writers around the world scramble for information on Raja Casablanca, Steve Amoia -- @worldfootballcm on Twitter -- brought up an apt quote from Jose Mourinho several years ago: "I need the Internet to look up some of these teams."

However, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club's website that there was a determination to add to an annual trophy haul that already includes the Champions League, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and UEFA Super Cup.

He said: "There can be no complacency and arrogance just because they’re not well-known in the footballing world." Addressing the German champions' quality, he continued: "[Bayern] is too stable, has too much good character, and the coach is too ambitious this year. All of them want this fifth trophy. It would mean we've won everything there is to win."

The Casablanca outfit looked lively on the counterattack against Mineiro and did well to keep everyone back to make it tough for the Brazilians to score. Striker Mouhcine Iajour was particularly good in the box, drawing a penalty with his movement.

Considering the host of youth talent Bayern manager Pep Guardiola has called up, I was a bit surprised to see none of them utilized in the semifinal win against Guangzhou Evergrande. So one can only surmise that Guardiola will be using his strongest possible lineup for Saturday's final.

The question of who is placed in the single pivot role -- Philipp Lahm or Javi Martinez -- determines the rest of the Startelf.

Recent contract extensions for Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Rafinha suggest that Bayern Munich are trying to create a legacy team -- one that can be remembered for all time. Adding a fifth trophy to honor Jupp Heynckes, with Guardiola putting his best foot forward, seems like a lovely way to top off a remarkable 2013.

Bayern Munich, kings of Europe. Bayern Munich, kings of the world?


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