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Guardiola vs. Diniz: What to Expect?

Guardiola x Diniz final mundial de clubes fifa fluminense manchester city club world cup 2023

On one side, Guardiola, leading Manchester City. On the other, Fernando Diniz, guiding Fluminense.

The teams will face off next Friday (12/22/2023) in the FIFA Club World Cup final.

Join us as we delve into the characteristics of these managers and explore possible outcomes for this final.

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FIFA Club World Cup Context

The FIFA Club World Cup is, or at least should be, the expression of the best team in the world within a season.

Since the era of the Intercontinental Cup, contested only between the winners of the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League, South Americans and Europeans have clashed for this title.

For Brazilian clubs, the chance for these official confrontations was diminished for a long time as playing the Libertadores was a challenging task due to logistical and security issues.

Nevertheless, during the Intercontinental period until 2000, South Americans usually prevailed over Europeans.

It all started with Santos in 1962 and 1963. Pelé and company defeated Benfica and Milan, respectively.

Sem novidades: FIFA reconhece Santos FC como bicampeão do Mundo em 1962 e 1963 - Santos Futebol Clube

Image: Santos FC Reproduction

Brazil claimed another Libertadores in 1976 with Cruzeiro. Despite having a splendid team with Nelinho and Dirceu Lopes, they couldn’t overcome Bayern Munich’s splendour, boasting Sepp Meier, Backenbauer, Gerd Müller, and Rummenigge.

In 1981, Flamengo enchanted the world. Led by Zico, the Rubro Negro secured a resounding 3-0 victory over Liverpool, leaving no chance for the English side.

Two years later, it was Grêmio’s turn, guided by their eternal idol, Renato Gaúcho, either with the ball at his feet or in the technical area. They defeated Hamburg and were crowned world champions.

Entering the ’90s, São Paulo replicated Santos’ feat, winning two consecutive world titles by beating Barcelona and Milan. A historic team under Tele Santana.

São Paulo x Milan: tudo sobre o Mundial de 1993

Image: Jorge Araújo/Folhapress

Grêmio won another Libertadores in 1995. They faced Ajax in the final, with the European side ultimately winning after a penalty shootout.

Cruzeiro claimed another championship in 1997. However, Borussia Dortmund emerged victorious with a 2-0 win, denying Raposa another world title opportunity.

Vasco da Gama, with another legendary team, faced Real Madrid in the 1998 final but narrowly missed out. Similarly, Palmeiras in 1999 faced Manchester United but ended defeated, concluding the intense Intercontinental matches.

Therefore, in 11 Intercontinental matches between Brazilians and Europeans, there was balance. Brazilians conquered the world 6 times, compared to 5 by Europeans.

Then, we moved into the 2000s, and the format of the World Cup changed entirely. The first edition involved continental champions alongside Real Madrid (1998 Intercontinental champion) and Corinthians (1998 Brasileirão champion).

Corinthians emerged victorious.

In the 2000s, Brazilian dominance over Europeans continued. São Paulo, in 2005, became Brazil’s greatest world champion by defeating Liverpool.

The following year, Internacional claimed their first Libertadores and also defeated Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s Barcelona.

However, in 2010, the tables turned, and the situation dramatically changed. Brazilians started accumulating more Copa Libertadores titles, featuring consecutive finals and victories.

Nevertheless, when it came to the Club World Cup, it wasn’t just European victories that became common, but African and Asian teams also started defeating Brazilians.

In 2010, Internacional, who had beaten Barcelona four years earlier, suffered the first elimination of a Brazilian team in the semifinals, losing to the modest Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2011, Santos defeated Kashiwa Reysol from Japan but faced a ruthless 4-0 loss to Barcelona.

In 2012, Corinthians managed the feat of securing the last Brazilian world title, defeating Chelsea 1-0.

Corinthians vence Chelsea e é bicampeão mundial

Image: AFP

A year later, Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s Atlético Mineiro lost to Raja Casablanca in the semifinal.

Six years later, Brazil reached another final. Liverpool got their revenge against Flamengo, winning 1-0, securing their first world title after six unsuccessful attempts.

In 2020, Palmeiras lost to Tigres from Mexico in the semifinal. The Verdão returned to the final the following year but couldn’t overcome Chelsea, who claimed their first FIFA Club World Cup.

In 2022, Flamengo didn’t make it to the final. They lost to Al-Hilal in the semis.

Now, in 2023, Fluminense reaches the final against Manchester City. Two teams experiencing the feeling of playing this crucial match for the first time in their history.

But what do we attribute this discrepancy between Europeans and South Americans as a whole in recent years?

It’s not an exaggeration to attribute such supremacy to the increasingly disparate injection of capital between continents. Not only Europeans but African and particularly Asian teams have substantial investments, signing the world’s best players, sometimes even poaching them from Brazilian clubs.

Can Fluminense make history and overcome this economic gap?

Guardiola vs. Diniz: What to Expect?

On one side, the man considered by many as the greatest football manager in history, Pep Guardiola.

The Spaniard, despite claiming to hate the style, took Tiki-Taka to another level. Based on extremely positional football, he desires ball possession and swift passing. However, he believes that passing the ball just for the sake of it is rubbish, insisting that every pass should have a purpose.

This philosophy was epitomized during the golden era of Barcelona.

Nevertheless, as the exceptional professional he is, Guardiola didn’t solely rely on this style of play; he sought to improve it, always considering the squad at his disposal.

Today, for instance, we witness a much more direct approach from Manchester City compared to Barcelona, with an increasing use of wing play.

With this evolution, he achieved the seemingly impossible: clinching four Premier League titles with the Cityzens and the coveted Champions League.

Senhor Barça: Pep Guardiola colheu títulos, recordes e poucas frustrações |

Image: Issei Kato

On the other side, a courageous coach who claimed his first professional title only this year (2023).

Fernando Diniz paid a high price in his career for sticking to a revolutionary playing style.

His success began when he reached the 2016 São Paulo State Championship final with the modest Audax from São Paulo’s Metropolitan region. They were defeated by Santos in the final.

From then on, he traversed through various major teams in the national scene. He had stints at São Paulo, narrowly missing out on a Brazilian Championship. He also managed Santos, Vasco da Gama, Athletico Paranaense, and currently, Fluminense.

He couldn’t clinch titles at these clubs. Many in the press and among fans started doubting the effectiveness of Diniz’s style as the trophies didn’t materialise.

However, upon his return to Fluminense in 2022, things began to click, and a lifetime’s work started bearing fruit.

They won the Carioca Championship, beating Flamengo 4-1 in the final.

They triumphed in the Copa Libertadores, showcasing improbable comebacks throughout the tournament.

While Pep is the primary advocate of positional football, even commented on by Thierry Henry on one occasion, stating that the coach substituted him for seeking the ball from the midfielder when Henry had been instructed to stay wide.

Conversely, Diniz adopts the inverse logic. According to him, football is intuitive, and the spaces on the field should be filled according to each player’s perceptions.

Diniz argues that the recent European supremacy over South Americans in both national teams and clubs doesn’t solely stem from the economic gap but also because Europeans evolved and found ways to beat South American football.

In contrast, Brazil attempted to replicate European playing styles, which proved entirely ineffective. According to Diniz, Brazilians should recreate their own style, relying on their cultural and even geographical aspects, emphasising intuition and ball control in tight spaces.

This Friday, we’ll witness whether Diniz’s antidote will work.

Regardless, it’s highly improbable. Fluminense has a highly qualified team, but when compared to Manchester City’s squad, the difference is stark.

A positive aspect for the Tricolor is the absence of Haaland, De Bruyne, and Doku, players who truly elevate City from a great team to a top 3 in the world.

Another factor is the importance given to the competition by South American teams. Undoubtedly, Fluminense will enter the field with a burning desire to win, as this is the most important game in their history. Should they defeat the English side, they’ll return to Brazil with the highest honors and will be remembered not only by their fans but by all Brazilians for eternity.

Manchester City understands the significance of adding this trophy to their collection. However, win or lose, they will return to England for the Premier League, where they need a resurgence if they aim to reclaim the title.

Hence, despite the chances and contributing factors for a Fluminense victory, the technical disparity is present and likely insurmountable.

Who do you think will win the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup?

A bola não é ingênua. Fernando Diniz é campeão da Libertadores

Image: Fluminense Release

Written by Vitor F L Miller.

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