What started off as a year of crisis for Barcelona, ended in triumph on Sunday by bagging the Club World Cup title for the third time, defeating the South American champion River Plate 3-0 in the finals.
A controversial opening goal from Lionel Messi and a double strike from the Uruguayan star Luis Suarez fired Barcelona to lift the Club Wold Cup held in Yokohama, Japan.
The final stretch however was full of drama and controversy.
Messi and Neymar were declared fit just 90 minutes before kick-off: Neymar had a recent groin injury and Messi missed Thursday’s 3-0 win over Guangzhou due to renal colic leading to suspicions that he was simply rested for the final. Add to that his controversial goal after 36 minutes with replays suggest that the ball hit his arm before he shot the goal.
Suarez who scored hattrick against China’s Guangzhou in Thursdays’ semi final match gave a stellar performance by scoring two goals leading his tally of goals to 17 in 11 games.
Barcelona is now the first club to win the trophy in its modern format three times following their triumphs in 2009 and 2011.
This is also the club’s fifth trophy of 2015, prompting Suarez to say, “We came to be No. 1 in the world and we achieved our goal. I felt very strong with Neymar and Messi and we were able to win quite easily,” reports Fox Sports.
Fox Sports reports River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo as saying, “We had our game plan and that was something we achieved until the Messi goal. We played against the great players of Barcelona – Messi, Neymar and Suarez – and they are able to do what they want.”
Suarez won the gold ball, Messi won the silver ball and Andres Iniesta won the bronze ball for their performances.
A touching moment of solidarity was shown by Guangzhou fans inside the Nissan stadium who lit up their mobile phones after 25 minutes of the game to show solidarity with Zou Zheng who wears the no 25 shirt and who had to be hospitalised with a broken leg after Thursday’s clash with Barcelona.
The annual tournament of Club World Cup features FIFA’s top clubs from the six continental confederations plus the champion of the host country.