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Zinedine Zidane can finally call on his full squad

Grêmio reached the final of the Club World Cup on Tuesday after defeating Pachuca, where the Brazilian side await either Real Madrid or their opponents in Wednesday’s second semifinal, Al-Jazira, in the improbable case that the UAE champions beat the current holders. In truth, the first semifinal wasn’t particularly good. It was settled by a single goal in extra time, and it was an excellent strike in fairness, but the game was characterized by few opportunities and plenty of dirty tackles. Both sides possess tough players, with several irritable types hitting opponents without scruples, on the ground and in the air where hands and elbows were frequently employed. The type of football that is prevalent in the Copa Libertadores and the Copa América. Macho football, without concession and without complaint. And football without aesthetics.

Hopefully we’ll see something more attractive on Wednesday. Madrid are motivated and the treatment table is bare and we can assume that Zinedine Zidane will give Gareth Bale a run-out. The Welshman is one of the Real manager’s luxury watches and on occasions like this it is particularly useful for Zidane to show him off. The opposition, it’s fair to say, are not particularly frightening. Al-Jazira entered the tournament as champions of the UAE Pro-League, not as confederation winners, although they have reached this stage by beating two sides that are continental Champions League winners: Auckland City of Oceania and Urawa Red Diamonds, the Asian title-holders. Al-Jazira share the same owners as Manchester City but the club’s budget is just 50 million euros – the same amount as City spent on Bernardo Silva last summer.

This will surely be the last Club World Cup in its format, which is not very convincing. There are plans afoot to test out a 24-team Club World Cup in Bogotá in March, to be staged every four years, with eight groups of three teams. The number of representatives from each confederation is being disputed: Europe want 12 teams, which would leave South America with just five. Africa, Asia and Concacaf wold have two each and Oceania one. Naturally, Conmebol is not happy with the arrangement. At the same time, the Intercontinental Cup would be resuscitated, with the Champions League winners taking on the Copa Libertadores holders in a single game. I like both of those ideas more than what we have at the moment.