On December the 15th the Nerazzurri will participate in FIFA’s Club World Cup for the first time in their history. As a club they are desperate to win this and Rafael Benitez will know that achieving this will not only add time to his faltering tenure but also have his name written down in Inter folklore forever.
Inter’s International Relations Manager and ex superstar Luis Figo was talking to FIFA earlier this week about his club’s chances of winning the Club World Cup in the UAE. When asked what the Nerazzurri’s objectives were he said: “Inter have the opportunity to take part in this prestigious competition for the first time ever, which means that winning it has become an overriding objective for the club. After winning the Champions League, the Club World Cup is our priority and would cap a fantastic year. We’re going to try and claim a trophy that would add a huge amount of lustre to our trophy cabinet. It’s a very important challenge for us.” No doubt then the Milanese club will be going with one intention: to win. The competition has had its critics but it is clear that there is a united front at Inter that want to see this “Trophy of Trophies” brought back to the Giuseppe Meazza.
In his interview Figo was also asked if he thought Benitez could fill the shoes of his predecessor Jose Mourinho, a question that seems to be asked at least once a week, however, the ex Ballon d’Or winner was positive, saying: “It’s a new season, a transitional campaign under a new coach. But we’re very pleased to have signed a very experienced coach, who has an impressive CV and is held in great store internationally. We have our minds set on achieving more success, just like last season.”
With the club wanting this trophy seemingly as much as the Scudetto or the Champions League this season, Rafael Benitez has a chance to really impose himself on this club and its fans by bringing home an important piece of silverware. One reason for this is that the club have not won this before, but more importantly to Benitez, neither has Mourinho.
Benitez has named his squad for the tournament and it is a strong one that includes some players who are still on the road to recovery after being out with injury for some time. The 23 man squad includes Julio Cesar, Douglas Maicon and Diego Milito who are all hoping to be fit by the time Inter face their first opponents, whilst the only major absentee will be Philippe Coutinho whose thigh injury will prevent him from travelling.
So what of Inter’s hopes? The main threat will come from Brazil’s Copa Libertadores winners, Internacional, they won the tournament in 2006 beating Barcelona 1-0 and, like Inter, will enter at the Semi Final stage. Mexican club Pachuca are also a club to be wary of, CONCACAF Champions league winners and three times qualifiers for the tournament they are a team with pedigree. Other entrants are AFC Champions League winners Seongnam from Korea, Congolese football club TP Mazembe winners of the CAF Champions League, Hekari United of Papua New Guinea winners of the OFC Champions League and of course the hosts Al-Wahda winner of the UAE Premier League.
Rafael Benitez is in a select group of coaches that actually has experience in this competition after taking part in 2005 with his former team Liverpool. In the tournament in Japan he took Liverpool to the final beating Costa Rican side Saprissa on the way before losing 1-0 to Brazilian side São Paulo. Benitez has his own personal crusade to win the trophy and has a plan to do so stating that “For now we have concentrated on Brazil’s Internacional. Before the competition starts we’ll also take a closer look at our other rivals, because although we’re aware of our strengths, we respect the brand of football played on every continent.”
When the tournament kicks off between the winners of Seongnam Ihlwa Chunma-Alwahda Sports Club/Hekari United on December 15th the Nerazzurri will be motivated and ready to win this competition as will their coach. Should Benitez win what Mourinho did not, then there will be hope. Should he fail, the writing may soon be on the wall.