An uneven finale
Is this a real final? Yes, it is, although there appears to be a lack of emotion attached to it. A victory for Kashima will pay out at 21:1 with the bookmakers, a Madrid win at 1:11. I don't know if a final has ever been so one sided with the betting shops. This has come about because Kashima, who were invited to the competition as local champions but without winning a confederation title, have beaten the champions of Oceania, Africa and South America(!) to reach this point to face a Madrid side who, as European Champions, only had to play (and, of course, win), a semi-final. Zidane said that a name alone doesn't win it for you. But the players do.
Centre stage for Japanese football
Of course, it goes without saying that the Madrid players will have to move and run. The game against Club América in the semi saw some of the effects of jet-lag. Three days later will not or, at least, less so. Kashima have an energetic, pressing style of play; they will run a lot, but the ball will be with Madrid and their international line-up that is only missing Bale. In any case, it has been a tremendous achievement for Kashima to make it this far and they'll definitely not be giving anything away easily. No matter what happens, today will be a happy day for Yoichi Takashaki, the man that created 'Óliver and Benji' in the hope of launching football in Japan. This final is his prize.
Video tech still to convince
As the saying goes, God writes straight with crooked lines, and we find ourselves in this rather dull Club World Cup getting excited about the VAR system, about which Infantino spoke yesterday which reminded me of the actor Pepe Isbert with his neighbours when 'Mr Marshall came to Villar del Rio: "I owe you an explanation, and that explanation I will give you." For the moment, this system gives us two things: one, several licence and equipment agreements; and another, it gives work to many former referees, three per game. Everything else we'll have to wait and see. And if it is to be judged on what we've seen so far...