February 8 – Mexico’s Tigres upset Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras from Brazil in a 1-0 semi-final victory at the Club World Cup to become the first Concacaf club to reach the final of tournament.
For 16 of the 9 Club World Cups, Conmebol’s teams have made the final. UEFA has had a team in every final bar one, winning 12 of them. Africa and Asia have each twice had teams make the final but lost all four times
French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac was the hero for Tigres, steering the champions from North and Central America and the Caribbean to the historic win against the South Americans, converting a penalty in the 54th minute. The Frenchman embodied Tigres’ energetic game, constantly causing problems for the Palmeiras defenders.
Gignac has been instrumental in Tigres’ remarkable run. He netted the late winner in the Concacaf Champions League final and scored a decisive brace in the Club World Cup quarter-finals against Ulsan Hyundai.
“We came to make history and we are proud to be in the final because this was a complicated match,” said Gignac. “I am not celebrating the second place, I am celebrating our going to the final, let’s see against who.”
The contrast with his 35-year-old counterpart Luiz Adriano at the other end could not have been bigger. The former Shakhtar Donetsk forward was peripheral throughout and when a major chance finally did arrive in the second half he failed to connect with the ball.
In last week’s Copa Libertadores final, Palmeiras sat back, absorbed the pressure and won the match in the10th minute of injury time, but that strategy completely backfired against Tigres. Goalkeeper Weverton was Palmeiras’ standout player with a number of key saves in the first half.
Palmeiras labored but looked exhausted as well in their 57th match since July. Even so, it was no excuse for the team of coach Abel Ferreira to offer so little enterprise. His team were largely restricted to attempts from outside the box in the second half.
Palmeiras’ shock elimination from the competition was a reality check for Brazilian football. In 2019, Flamengo eliminated Al Hilal in the semi-finals but fell to Liverpool 1-0 in the final. The Sao Paulo giants have never won the world title and were hoping for a landmark victory in this year’s competition.
In the final Tigres will play the winner of tonight’s semi-final between European champions Bayern Munich and African champions Al Ahly. The Egyptians eliminated host representative Al Duhail in their quarter-final.
“I feel calm and happy for the victory and enthusiastic like everyone else but I am not going to be having a party,” said Tigres’ Brazilian coach Ricardo Ferretti. “There is still a game to go, the most important is the one that comes and we know the capacity of the team that we are going to face. Prepare the boys and recover them physically because emotionally they are in a good place.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1614302295labto1614302295ofdlr1614302295owedi1614302295sni@o1614302295fni1614302295