James Lawton: Rafael Benitez's case for some easy-won credibility at Chelsea falls flat

The Club World Cup title promised only the brief assistance of a smokescreen

Six thousand miles is a long way to go for a little sushi and a major serving of reality but Chelsea may just benefit from the experience. They simply can't get enough reality these days.

Their defeat by Corinthians may have deprived them of the Club World Cup title that interim manager Rafa Benitez, perhaps understandably, would have endeavoured to feast upon, but it was maybe the most powerful reminder so far that they need a lot more rehabilitation than a title that was born in financial opportunism and will almost certainly die of indifference.

As 20,000 Brazilians proved again, beating the world on any football stage, and especially against one of the two or three richest clubs in the history of the game, will always be a matter for celebration but in Europe, and especially at a Stamford Bridge so currently eager to justify itself, success in Yokohama promised only the brief assistance of a smokescreen.

It didn't work for Benitez when he won two years ago with the Internazionale side guided to the Champions League title by Jose Mourinho. He was sacked five days later and the hard view must be that beating Corinthians was unlikely to be any better an insurance policy.

Roberto Di Matteo is just one witness to the fact that the Chelsea hierarchy do not operate on the basis of prolonged gratitude for any particular set of winning results and Benitez seemed to be investing far too much hope in the meaning and the value of any swift acquisition of silverware.

If his position is unenviable, it is one he has surely accepted with open eyes, and never more so than when they are drawn to the details of his contract. Officially an interim manager, the addition in Japan of a little more circumstantial evidence to the fanciful argument that he had already conjured some near miraculous resurrection of Fernando Torres would have taken him only to Torres's next poor game.

Unfortunately, it arrived yesterday along with body language which expressed again some of the worst of his frustration during his descent from his old status as one of the game's natural-born strikers.

There was a moment that might just have augmented the optimism created by his burst of goals against a much less than adequate Danish opposition in the Champions League – and two more strikes against struggling Sunderland. It came late and it might have rescued Chelsea but Torres shot straight at the admirably resilient and acrobatic Brazilian goalkeeper Cassio. Torres smouldered on in his running battle with the Turkish referee but there never looked much chance that he would revive, for the moment at least, the idea that Benitez knew the secrets of his football soul.

This was being painted as a serious proposition despite the negligible evidence and so was the idea that somehow Benitez was already re-shaping Chelsea as repaired runners in the upper echelon of the Premier League.

That was too much to be expected of the man parachuted into Stamford Bridge and a welcome quite unprecedented in its sustained hostility. It was also rather too much for the Spaniard to claim for himself but then in such matters Benitez has never been easily described as retiring.

Yesterday he was reminded of the immensity of his various challenges. With Frank Lampard, who has already been consigned to the club's past, however reluctantly, by his new manager, the team's most consistently coherent player, the pressure to underpin the creative talents of such as Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata had rarely seemed so pressing.

It was strange that Oscar came into the game long after a threatening pattern had been established. He would surely have shared the passion of his compatriots David Luiz and Ramires to make a significant impact against the champions of his homeland but by the time he arrived the poise of Corinthians on the break had been firmly established.

Chelsea's late aggression held some promise of redemption, most brightly when Torres had only the goalkeeper to beat, but there was no doubt that it was the Brazilian team who had played most of the composed football and were well worth the winning goal by Peruvian Paolo Guerrero. They had plenty of native rhythm in their passing and generally looked like a well organised team aware of their strengths and their weaknesses.

This remains the basic goal of Benitez. It has already been said that in his brief time he has tightened the defence and given the side, which was crowned champions of Europe last spring and was just four points off the top of the Premier League when he was appointed, some new certainties. It was a proposition he was not likely to dispute. However, there is unlikely to be such talk for a little while. Corinthians won the Club World Cup title – and Chelsea lost the battle for a little, if somewhat dubious, credibility.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas