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Man City Ease Into Club World Cup Final

The European champions shrugged off their sluggish Premier League form to cruise past Urawa Reds 3-0 in Tuesday's semi-final in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


Manchester City’s Croatian midfielder #08 Mateo Kovacic celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the FIFA Club World Cup football semi-final match between England’s Manchester City and Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on December 19, 2023. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Manchester City will have to cope without Erling Haaland as they aim to lift the Club World Cup for the first time in Friday’s final against Fluminense.

The European champions shrugged off their sluggish Premier League form to cruise past Urawa Reds 3-0 in Tuesday’s semi-final in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Haaland watched on from the stands as Mateo Kovacic and Bernardo Silva struck after Marius Hoibraten’s own goal opened the scoring.

The Norwegian still provoked the biggest cheer of the night from a barely half-full King Abdullah Sports City Stadium when he offered the crowd a wave as he appeared on the big screens during the first half.

But City boss Pep Guardiola confirmed his top scorer will miss the final and does not know when Haaland will be fit to feature again.

 

Manchester City’s Argentine forward #19 Julian Alvarez and Urawa’s Japanese midfielder #22 Kai Shibato fight for the ball during the FIFA Club World Cup football semi-final match between England’s Manchester City and Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on December 19, 2023. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

The 23-year-old has already missed four matches due to a foot problem.

City have won only one of their last six Premier League matches to fall behind Arsenal and Liverpool in the title race.

And they face in-form Everton away on their return to England on December 27.

“Erling still cannot train,” said Guardiola after Haaland was left out the City squad.

Tournament rules state that the 23 players selected in the semi-final are the only players allowed to feature in the final.

Kevin De Bruyne will also miss the final despite making his return to training on Monday from a four-month layoff due to a hamstring injury.

Despite missing their biggest goal threat and creative hub, City were never troubled as an unblemished record for European sides against Asian teams at the Club World Cup was extended to 14 games.

“Happy to get to the final against Fluminense. It’s the last step to win the title, the only title the club doesn’t have, so we go for it,” added Guardiola.

City lacked penetration and punch for the first 45 minutes despite enjoying over 80 percent of possession against the Asian champions.

Urawa had lost six of their previous 10 games but largely kept their opponents at bay before a self-inflicted blow opened the game up for City on the stroke of half-time.

Matheus Nunes fired a low cross into the box that Hoibraten turned into his own net under little pressure.

– Kovacic bags first goal –

As Urawa tired from chasing the ball in the sweltering Saudi heat, City were then able to cut loose in the second half.

Kovacic drilled in his first City goal after racing onto Kyle Walker’s pass that cut the Japanese defence wide open.

Both Kovacic and Nunes have struggled to make a meaningful impact since arriving at the treble winners in the summer transfer window.

Nunes should have followed the Croatian’s lead by netting his first goal for the club when he headed a glorious chance wide from Jack Grealish’s cross.

A third goal for City did not take long to arrive as Hoibraten’s bad luck continued when Silva’s shot deflected in off the Norwegian defender.

Silva warned of the heightened risk of injury put upon players by a “crazy” schedule after FIFA confirmed that the Club World Cup will expand to 32 teams and a month-long competition in 2025.

A hugely one-sided contest did little to whet the appetite for many more matches between Europe’s elite clubs and the rest of the world as the financial gulf between the two continues to grow.

“A lot of our players now know what is the gap between a Premier League team and our team,” said Urawa coach Maciej Skorza.

“We expected possession of the ball will be huge for Manchester City, but we had our plan to counter-attack. Maybe this match showed also quite a big difference in physical aspect between these two teams.”

European teams are now unbeaten in 21 Club World Cup matches stretching back to 2012.

AFP