European clubs have dominated FIFA’s intercontinental Club World Cup since it was launched at the turn of the millennium, but there have been a few notable shocks
Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona are among those that have suffered surprise defeats to clubs from South America and beyond.
We’ve taken a closer look at the five European giants that failed to lift the Club World Cup.
Manchester United (2000)
United’s decision to withdraw their participation for the 1999-00 FA Cup caused a shockwave of controversy, with The Sun reacting by a front-page splash that featured a range of opinions – from Simon Weston to Caprice to Darren Day. What a time to be alive.
“We had to think of the situation regarding England hosting the World Cup,” argued Sir Alex Ferguson.
“No one wants to see them not get it. I dare not think of the criticism we would have received if we had refused. That was unthinkable – and that’s a Scotsman talking.”
United drew 1-1 with Mexican side Necaxa, lost 3-1 to Brazilian giants Vasco da Gama – with goals from Edmundo and Romario – and beat South Melbourne 2-0.
Ferguson’s side left with their tails between their legs with a group-stage elimination. Still, who could forget that glorious World Cup England hosted in 2006? Oh.
For the record, Caprice also correctly called out Man Utd’s self-serving boycott of the 2000 FA Cup, sticking up for football fans everywhere. pic.twitter.com/CalatnTGJ1
— MattinWoolwich (@MattWWoolwich) July 14, 2020
Real Madrid (2000)
United weren’t the only European giants at the first-ever Club World Cup, which was launched with an eight-team format, with Real Madrid invited along as the 1998 Intercontinental Cup winners. The tournament had two group stages, with the winner of each facing off in the final.
Vicente del Bosque’s Los Blancos fared better than their Premier League rivals, going unbeaten with seven points from nine. They beat Saudi side Al-Nassr and Raja Casablanca but a 2-2 draw with Corinthians proved costly and they exited on goal difference – before beating Necaxa in a third-fourth place play-off.
FIFA were surely hoping for the glamour final of Manchester United vs Real Madrid. Instead they got all-Brazilian clash at the Maracana, with Corinthians beating Vasco da Gama on penalties after a goalless stalemate.
After making a song and dance of the launch of the competition in 2000, the Club World Cup wasn’t held for another four years due to financial difficulties.
The second edition of the tournament eventually arrived in the Autumn of 2005, in which Rafael Benitez’s European champions Liverpool faced Copa Libertadores winners Sao Paulo in the final.
Liverpool eased past Costa Rican minnows Saprissa with a 3-0 win while Sao Paulo made it past Asian Champions League holders Al-Ittihad with a more memorable 3-2 to set up the clash at the Yokohama International Stadium.
“We’ve not travelled all the way to Japan to go sightseeing,” Peter Crouch said ahead of the final. But Liverpool ultimately went home empty-handed. They couldn’t find a way past Rogerio Ceni and lost 1-0.
🚩 São Paulo 1×0 Liverpool
🏆 Mundial 2005
🏟️ Estádio Yokohama
UM DOS GOLS MAIS IMPORTANTES DA HISTÓRIA DO SÃO PAULO,
"MINEIRO BATEU, BATEU, BATEU, GOOOOOOLLLLL" pic.twitter.com/ISAjgPtlhN
— Julio Casares 🍥 (@JulioCasadasSP) April 26, 2021
The Brazilian domination of the early years of the Club World Cup continued in 2006 with Internacional following in the footsteps of Corinthians and Sao Paulo.
Barcelona went into the final in a confident mood. They’d beaten Mexican side Club America 4-0 in the semi-final, with Eidur Gudjhohnsen, Rafael Marquez, Ronaldinho and Deco finding themselves on the scoresheet.
Frank Rijkaard had the star power but Internacional were dogged and organised and held the La Liga giants at bay. A 17-year-old Alexandre Pato started up top for the Brazilians, who lifted the trophy after a 1-0 win in Yokohama.
The European domination of the Club World Cup had begun by the time Chelsea arrived in Japan in the winter of 2012.
The Champions League winners had triumphed Club World Cup for five successive years and the expectation was that Chelsea would make it six.
But 2012-13 was not going to plan for the Blues. Roberto Di Matteo was sacked in November and successor Rafael Benitez was tasked with getting the season back on track.
Benitez’s teamsheet boasted the likes of Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres but they were bested by a stoic Corinthians side, managed by future Brazil boss Tite. The Brazilian club won 1-0 in Yokohama, the only goal of the game a close-range header from Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero.
Chelsea’s defeat remains the last time a European side failed to win it. For 10 straight years, European sides have come out on top against South American, Asian and African opposition – including Chelsea, at the second time of asking, with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Palmeiras in 2021.