BARCELONA WINS AGAIN

Spain’s FC Barcelona midfielder Lionel Messi scores a goal past Brazil’s Santos FC goalkeeper Rafael Cabral during the final at the Club World Cup soccer tournament in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Japan, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011.
AP Photo/Hiro Komae
AP Photo/Hiro Komae

The best of Europe defeated the best of South America, and the temptation to compare one of South America’s best players to Europe’s best is all but a passing single thought. Spain’s Barcelona defeated Santos of Brazil, 4-0, in Yokohama, Japan on Sunday to win its second FIFA Club World Cup title; and Lionel Messi put to rest, again, that he has no equal in the world, not even the multi-talented Neymar of Santos.

Messi, as usual, was at the forefront of Barcelona’s performance on Sunday; the lopsided game was reflected in Barca’s dominance in its 71 percent of ball possession and its 16-8 possession in shots on goal and 4-2 in corner kicks.

“The harder the game, the more character we show,” Dani Alves told the FIFA web site. “We proved that again today, just when everyone was expecting – and not without reason –a close game. We went out there and played our best football, which is not easy in a one-off game like this, and we were far the better team. We’re used to competing at this level and that’s one of the secrets of our success. We just love playing these games.”

It took Messi 17 minutes to get Barcelona on the scoreboard when he exchanged passes with Xavi Alonso and finished with chipping the ball over the advancing Santos goalkeeper. Seven minutes later, it was Xavi’s turn to score, and in the 45th minute, Ces Fabregas got in on the act.

Barcelona’s control was expected but the 4-0 blowout was not, as Santos – with the talented trio led by Neymar, along with Ganso and Borges – were expected to give Messi and Barcelona some worry. With Barcelona leading by three goals, the Spaniards kept coming and in the 82nd minute, defender Dani Alves stormed down the left side and sent a square pass to Messi, who dribbled around Santos goalkeeper Rafael Cabral to register his second goal, in an empty goal.

The trophy was Barcelona’s 13th in 16 championship games, including the 2011 UEFA Champions League title in a 3-1 win over English Premier League champion Manchester United at London’s Wembley Stadium back in May. Barcelona was named the Team of the Year; Pep Guadiola was FIFA’s Coach of the Year and Messi the FIFA Player of the Year.

“The thing is we love playing finals and we’ve had so much experience of playing them lately that we’re pretty relaxed when we go out on the pitch,” explained midfield linchpin Xavi Alonso told FIFA. “Our mindset today was to go out and get a good result just by playing our usual game. Fortunately, that’s how it worked out.”

In the third-place game, Al Sadd of Tunisia topped Kashiwa Reysol of Japan, 5-3, on penalty kick after the teams played to a goalless draw

Donovan To Everton

U. S. forward Landon Donovan is likely heading back to English Premier Club Everton. The Los Angeles Galaxy forward work played for the club on loan last winter, is in the process of signing an agreement to play for the Toffees for two months. According to the club, an “agreement in principle” is in place for Donovan’s second stint at Everton.

The agreement will see Donovan arrive at Everton just after Christmas and play his first match versus Bolton Wanderers on Jan. 4; he will return to MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy and MLS after the Toffees’ Feb. 25 match at Liverpool.

“I am delighted that we have managed to get Landon back,” Everton manager David Moyes told the club website. “He will give us some good experience over January and February.” Moyes continued, “His season has just finished and like last time we need him to hit the ground running because the games come thick and fast at this time of year.”

“The opportunity to return to Everton and play for such a well-respected club and a manager that I hold in such high regard was something that was simply too good to pass up,” said Donovan, who scored twice in 13 appearances for Everton in his first stint. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Everton in 2010 and I’m hopeful that we can experience similar success this time around.”

Interest In Ream

While Donovan is heading to Everton, another U.S. player has caught the eye of another English Premiership club. Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle has shown interest in New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream. The U.S. defender is staying fit this off-season in England and has been working out with several clubs, including Wanderers.

The Red Bulls sporting director Eric Soler has quelled any speculation that Ream will be a Premiership player and reiterated that the defender will play at Red Bull Arena next season.

Klinsmann Chooses Herzog

Former Austrian international Andreas Herzog, who coached the Austrian under-21 men’s team will be Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant with the U. S. men’s national team. Herzog played 103 times and scored 26 goals for Austria from 1998-2003. The midfielder played for team such as Rapid Vienna, Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich; he had a stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2004.

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