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Tactical Review: Kashima Antlers 1-3 Real Madrid; 2018 Club World Cup

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An 11-minute hat-trick from Gareth Bale sends team through to the final.

Kashima Antlers v Real Madrid CF - FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018
Gareth Bales scores his third goal against the Kashima Antlers all but sending Real Madrid to the Club World Cup final.
Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

To the sounds of a supportive crowd in Abu Dhabi, Real Madrid booked their ticket to a third-consecutive Club World Cup final after beating Kashima Antlers 1-3 on December 19, 2018.

Reports from earlier this week claimed that Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema could miss the match due to injury however all three participated and the Welshman’s hat-trick sent the team through.

Right from the start the Kashima Antlers, who are currently third in the J1 League standings, put a lot of pressure on Real Madrid and looked like the better team.

None of the Real Madrid players made good impressions at the start of the match and six out of the 11 misplaced passes which gave their Kashima Antlers the opportunity to score first.

While it took a while for the starting XI to settle into their groove, they eventually showed why they are the tournaments current title holders.

On paper, Santiago Solari set up as a 4-3-3 but on the pitch, the players were switching in and out of positions and looked more like a 2-3-3-2.

Anytime the team wanted to move forward towards the goal, the majority of them would move into the opposition half leaving Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane alone to defend their goal.

Here, eight players from Real Madrid moved into opposition territory leaving only Ramos, Varane and Thibaut Courtois at the back.
Screenshot from DAZN CAN

Both Marcelo and Dani Carvajal moved more into a midfield role and Bale and Benzema were left as the two attackers up front.

The positioning of the players often allowed the Kashima Antlers to quickly play off of counter attacks and Real Madrid was sometimes left fragile at the back.

The current AFC Champions League title holders had three opportunities to take the lead within the opening three minutes of the match however Los Blancos were the first to get on the scoresheet.

It was not until the 44th minute that Real Madrid found the back of the net as Marcelo’s through-ball found Bale who put the ball in off the back post.

After the goal, the team’s momentum continued to flow going into the second half.

In the 53rd minute, Bale capitalized on a defensive error from Shuto Yamamoto and was able to knock the ball into an empty net to extend the lead to 2-0.

Only two minutes later, the Welshman was able to claim his hat-trick after rifling a shot into the top right corner from outside the box all but solidifying the team’s place in the final.

Stat chart from after the match shows how Real Madrid dominated against Kashima Antlers.
BBC

While a lot of the attention was on Bale throughout the match, Marcelo, Marcos Llorente and Luka Modric were other standout players who contributed to the teams win.

The Brazilian was able to make use of his attacking abilities and help move the ball up top and linked up with Benzema and Bale nicely.

The 2018 Ballon D’or winner may not have used his speed today but made sure the flow of the game never stopped. Modric worked his magic in the midfield providing innovative passes for his teammates and always looking for a way to break down the opposition’s defence.

Llorente once again showed that he is a dynamic midfielder who is key to the team in all positions. He routinely dropped back to help the close gaps in the defence and his high passing rate helped the team dominate possession over 90 minutes.

The team’s entire performance overall was exceptionally better than their last few games in LaLiga and Solari’s side looks to be in good form going forward especially with some important matches coming up early in the new year.

But before 2018 wraps up, Real Madrid have the opportunity to become the first club to win the Club World Cup title three years in a row if they beat Ai Ain at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.

The Club World Cup final will take place on Saturday, December 22 at 11:30 a.m. EST.