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Immediate Reaction: Club América 0 - 2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid advance to the finals of the Club World Championships

Club America v Real Madrid - FIFA Club World Cup Semi Final Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images,

From my notebook: Three things I observed in Real Madrid’s victory over Club América in Yokohama today.

How it went down

Club América lined-up in what looked like a 5-3-2, and they did it with a clear game plan - to shore up the defense, absorb attacks, and hit on the counter. It also seemed - although this is entirely subjective - that they wanted this match more than Real Madrid did coming out of the gates.

But once the dust settled and the game started to normalize, it was clear Real Madrid had another gear to go to and they were always going to be on another level. Zidane’s men started crafting possession around the park in heavy doses and getting the ball out wide to either Lucas Vazquez or Marcelo. Nothing revolutionary here - it’s the same thing we’ve seen nearly game-in game-out.

While Real Madrid found space on the flanks, the crossing was quite poor, and with América’s defenders packing the area, it was relatively comfortable for them to pick crosses off early on.

Other than Real clearly being superior in every aspect of the pitch, América defended well, it has to be said, and it wasn’t until the 26th minute that the first clear-cut chance was created. Ironically, it was a cross - this one quite brilliant - from Lucas on the right wing which Ronaldo headed off the post.

But Real Madrid knocked. It was subtle, but, a few jabs in the first half eventually morphed into a right hook. Just before the half-time whistle, Toni Kroos - like any other cyborg would do - sliced America’s defense with a peach of a pass which Benzema hit into the top far corner with his left foot.

From there, it was always going to be difficult for América to climb back. While this game was played tight overall - rendering my 3-2 prediction quite silly - La Volpe’s men were unimaginative going forward, and Real’s defensive line picked off nearly every attempt at a counter the Mexicans slung back at them.

Miscellaneous complaints

Not to be nitpicky after an exhausting win 11, 000 km away, but, I’m going to be that guy, because I’m terribly biased against this tournament which I’m not fond of.

  • Dani Carvajal was quite poor. Misplaced passes, running into defenders, losing his man on the flank a couple times, and just leg-heavy overall. Again, it really doesn’t matter, but it’s something I observed. Chalk it up to jet-lag, sushi hangover, one too many brownie bites on a 16-hour flight - whatever.
  • Luka Modric received a nasty cleat to the back of his ankle in the 2nd half, which is always going to touch a nerve. If you remember, it was this time in 2014 when Real Madrid were riding an unbeaten run heading into the CWC before losing Modric to a long injury. And also, Lucas, what were you thinking here?
  • One more minor thing to point out: Real Madrid had several free-kicks from the right side where - naturally without Bale or James - no left-footed player could step over to take. I would have liked to see Kroos or Modric swing those in rather than have Ronaldo hit them. Or, at the very least, have one of them stand over as a decoy.


I was disappointed with the atmosphere today (should this go in the complaints section?). Japan, how you gonna host the best team on the planet, have them travel 11, 000 km, and only fill up a quarter of the stadium? The International Stadium in Yokohama fits 73k plus, and Yokohama itself has a population of nearly 4 million. The distance from the pitch to the stands didn’t help the ambiance either. There certainly seemed to be a disconnect with the match and the fans taking it in.

I imagine the final on Sunday will be a bit more fun, given that Real Madrid will face Kashima Antlers.

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