We’ve now reached the business end of the 2013 Club World Cup in Morocco. And with the action set to intensify, there are four clubs left in the fray, and two of them have surprised fans and pundits alike by making it so far.
Specifically, we’ll see Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande face off against favourites Bayern Munich on Dec. 17 in the first semi, with a match-up between Raja Casablanca of Morocco and Brazilian squad Atletico Mineiro to follow in the other semifinal on the 18th.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs. Bayern Munich
Guangzhou were unlikely winners over African champions Al Ahly in their quarterfinal. The Chinese side, making their first ever appearance at the Club World Cup, won their match 2-0 thanks to second goals goals from Elkeson and Dario Conca. All in all, the game was fairly even, with ESPN’s match report showing that Al Ahly actually had a slight edge in shots on goal, fouls, and possession. This is without a doubt Guangzhou’s biggest ever club game, and they’re facing a Bayern side who have been in brilliant form under new coach Pep Guardiola.
By virtue of winning the UEFA Champions League, Bayern Munich earned a bye to the semi-final round, meaning they have not yet competed in this competition. Nonetheless, Bayern remain the favorites, as they’re arguably the top club team in the world at this point and coach Pep Guardiola has them scoring goals for fun. They have been in scintillating form in the Bundesliga, where they have racked up a double digit lead over arch rivals Borussia Dortmund and finished 2013 unbeaten at home in the league. In fact, if you check Betfair for the odds, Bayern are overwhelming favourites to win this tournament at 2/11. For reference, the next best odds belong to Atletico Mineiro at 11/2. To put it mildly, it will be more than just an upset if Bayern lose to Guangzhou.
Raja Casablanca vs. Atletico Mineiro
In the most entertaining match of the quarter-finals, host team Raja Casablanca advanced by scoring an extra time goal to send Mexican side Monterrey home. The winning goal was scored by Kouko Guehi in the 95th minute.
Raja have been the surprise package of this tournament so far- home advantage saw them beat Auckland City in the playoffs and follow it up with their shock triumph over Monterrey. With home support available and nothing to lose, Raja will fancy their chances, though at 35/1 odds to win the event they’re a long shot at this point. That goes for their match against Atletico Mineiro and beyond.
Winner of the Copa Libertadores, Atletico Mineiro had a bye for this round, just as Bayern did. They’re a powerful side that most expect to roll over Raja Casablanca and they could even give Bayern Munich some trouble. Like Guangzhou, they are also making their first appearance in this tournament, but will be hoping to take inspiration from fellow Brazilian outfit Corinthians, who lifted the trophy last year with a stunning win over Chelsea.