Club America (pictured) celebrates after defeating Jeonbuk Hyundai in a FIFA Club World Cup second- round match on December 11, 2016, in Osaka, Japan. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
OSAKA, Japan – Club America head coach Ricardo La Volpe was full of praise for his squad after its 2-1 victory over Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Hyundai on Sunday in a 2016 FIFA Club World Cup (FCWC) second-round encounter.
The come-from-behind win – courtesy of two goals by Silvio Romero -- set-up a semifinal date between the Aguilas and UEFA Champions League champion Real Madrid on December 15 in Yokohama.
“It was a difficult match, but the players showed character, mentality and heart,” said La Volpe in his post-match press conference. “They showed that Mexican football is competitive.”
The 64-year-old Argentinean acknowledged the difficult challenge that Real Madrid presents, but he’s confident that Club America can pull off a surprise in its second-ever FCWC final-four appearance.
“America is a big team, against Real Madrid we will look to counter their individuals,” he commented. “Jerseys don’t win matches. You have to re-double efforts and play two-on-one on the whole field. There are ways of playing and studying the opponent.”
In light of a 2-1 loss to Guangzhou Evergrande in last year’s FCWC quarterfinals, La Volpe believes that a weight off has been lifted off the shoulders of Club America players. They can take to the pitch against Real Madrid with a nothing-to-lose mindset.
“There is less pressure,” finished the former Mexico manager. “Today was more important. Now we are looser. It’s flattering to be in America. It’s a big club. What nobody expects, can happen. The team is looser. Everybody thinks we will lose.”
Club America is 3W-0D-3L in six all-time FCWC games.