We don't fear Barcelona, say minnows

Japanese and African champions refuse to be cowed as World Club Championship kicks off

With the wind in their sails after capturing a first J-League title, Japan's Kashiwa Reysol will be dangerous opposition for anyone at the Club World Cup, according to coach Nelsinho.

Reysol will be expected to comfortably brush aside New Zealand's Auckland City in today's opening game in Toyota with a quarter-final against Mexico's Monterrey at stake.

Nelsinho said his side would not take Auckland's collection of part-timers lightly, but warned Reysol possessed the weaponry to hurt bigger sides after their title boost.

"We're here to win," the Brazilian said yesterday. They [Auckland] deserve respect. They were good enough to reach the Club World Cup. But our standards remain the same. We don't want to just make up the numbers here. We have analysed our opponents and we want to keep on winning. That's what I will be demanding of my team – that's our goal."

The seven-team Fifa competition has been criticised for failing to come alive until the champions of Europe and South America join the fray at the semi-final stage.

Barring a major shock, favourites Barcelona and South American Libertadores Cup holders Santos should provide a mouth-watering final in Yokohama later this month. Before the storied Spanish and Brazilian sides jet into Japan, the smaller teams take centre stage, even if the quality of soccer on display could fail to set pulses racing.

"We always run our hearts out," said Kashiwa striker Hideaki Kitajima. "We can hit on the counter-attack and we can play a possession game. We'll put our soul into every game."

A Reysol win, while largely expected, will also help organisers fill seats as early matches have traditionally been played in freezing conditions at half-empty stadiums.

Unlikely to get the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Lionel Messi or Xavi on the pitch, Kitajima said that shirt-swapping was not a motivation for Reysol.

"I don't just want to take part," he said, echoing his manager's sentiments. "It's always been a dream to play on this stage and we'll give our all in every match. The team feels the same. We want to play well and win, no matter what the game is."

Both quarter-finals take place on Sunday with Monterrey facing the winners of tomorrow's curtain raiser following the game between Tunisia's Esperance and Al Sadd of Qatar.

"It's going to be a tough task against the Japanese champions," said Auckland captain Ivan Vicelich. "We're a small amateur club. We're facing a huge challenge."

Messi and his team-mates are unlikely be quaking in their signatured boots but Esperance plan to give Barcelona a torrid time at the Club World Cup in Japan. The African champions must first beat Qatar's Al Sadd in their quarter-final at the weekend before launching an attempted ambush of Barca in Yokohama on 15 December.

But Ghana defender Harrison Afful, who scored a thumping left-foot rocket to win the CAF Champions League for Esperance last month, said the team feared no one. "Nothing is impossible. I keep on watching my goal over and over again on my computer," said the full-back, recalling his screamer against Wydad Casablanca. I can hardly recognise myself because I'm not used to scoring goals. I'm more of a provider. I never get tired of hearing the Tunisian commentator go wild," he said.

Al Sadd are likely to provide stubborn opposition in the quarter-finals but Afful, who was left out of Ghana's World Cup squad last year, believes Esperance could go far in Japan.

"We want to go to Japan and put in some good performances," said the 25-year-old, whose goal made Esperance kings of Africa for a second time, 17 years on from their first triumph.

"It won't be easy for us, but with the ability we've got, I can tell you, we're capable of going a long way in this competition."

Barcelona fly to Japan straight after a top-of-the-table Clasico showdown with bitter rivals Real Madrid at the weekend but are still favourites to win the seven-team Club World Cup.

The Catalan giants, winners in 2009 in Abu Dhabi and beaten finalists in 2006 in Japan, and Brazilian side Santos, join the competition at the semi-finals stage next week.

Japan will not bid for the Club World Cup in 2013 and 2014 to give the country a better chance of staging major women's tournaments.

Japan Football Association (JFA) president Junji Ogura said yesterday that plans to keep Fifa's seven-team Club World Cup in the country beyond next year have been put on ice.

"If we have it every year, it makes it difficult to host other competitions," Ogura said. If we want to stage the under-20 World Cup or the women's World Cup it makes sense not to bid [for the Club World Cup in 2013 and 2014]."

Tickets for all three games of this year's event in Yokohama are sold out, tournament organisers said yesterday.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test