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Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012

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Getting ready: Corinthians goalkeeper Cassio practices during a training session on Saturday, a day before the Club World Cup final in Yokohama. AP

Corinthians face major challenge against Chelsea


Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — Corinthians manager Tite is aiming to channel the passion of his club's fanatical supporters in Sunday's Club World Cup final, but warns that Chelsea will need no second invitation to exploit any lapse in his players' resolve.

South American champions Corinthians head into the match at Nissan Stadium backed by a huge traveling support, with thousands of fans making the journey from Brazil in anticipation of seeing the Sao Paulo side crowned world No. 1 for a second time.

Corinthians made no mistake in booking their place in the final with a 1-0 win over Egypt's Al-Ahly on Wednesday, but Tite knows Chelsea will be a far tougher proposition and insists his players must stay focused in the face of the European champions' pressure.

"I want to see a quality performance with everyone concentrating on the match," the 51-year-old said on Saturday. "That is the only way we can return the favor to our fans. That is how we gain the trust of our fans, because if you don't do well on the pitch then the supporters won't support you. I can't promise we will be the champions, but I can promise we will give everything.

"Corinthians have a style of our own, and it is very clear. We have been building this style and our philosophy is to respect the opposition but continue attacking. We didn't get here by accident. The mental element is very important, and if we are well prepared then it could make the difference in the final."

Corinthians will be hoping to succeed where fellow Brazilians Santos failed in last year's final with a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona, but Tite denies the demoralizing defeat has left a scar on his country's soccer psyche.

"Each match in each tournament is a totally different story," he said. "What kind of game plan you use, what kind of situation, the environment and the mistakes the team makes.

"Maybe the opening match is one that players might get nervous about, so I would talk to them and deal with it. Santos conceded two goals in the first half and that decided it, but I would rather not point out clubs that were defeated."

Chelsea reached the final with a 3-1 win over Mexico's Monterrey on Thursday, but defender Branislav Ivanovic denies the London club owes its success to good fortune after qualifying for the tournament with a series of backs-to-the-wall victories in last season's Champions League.

"I think if one team wins a lot of trophies over the last five or 10 years it is not just luck," said the Serbian. "We know we deserved to win. With hard work we will try to do our best, and sometimes the most important thing is the result, not the way you play.

"I don't think we play defensively in every game, but the game will be decided by the way we play. This has given us success. We know how Corinthians are going to play, and we expect a very hard game."

After beating Bayern Munich in their own stadium to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time in May, Ivanovic is unfazed by Corinthians' huge support.

"We were very impressed, but this is quite a similar situation to the Champions League final when we played the game away," said the 28-year-old. "Tomorrow there will be a lot of Brazilian supporters and our supporters as well. We know the atmosphere is going to be like in South America, but we will try to adapt and stay focused on the game."

Sunday's final will be Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez's third at the Club World Cup, having lost with Liverpool against Sao Paulo in 2005 before leading Inter Milan to the 2010 title against African champions TP Mazembe.

"I'm really pleased and really proud because I could manage three top sides in the world," Benitez said. "To be here to have this opportunity to win again is amazing. I know it is a very important competition.

"Some people say it is not the biggest in the world. We know that the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League are maybe a little bit different because you play 13 games. But to be here you have to be champions. That's not easy, and then after that you have to win. So I am really proud to be here."



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