Mexico’s Liga MX champions C.D. Guadalajara are the first continental champions to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 following a dramatic 4-2 penalty shoot-out win against fellow North and Central American and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) Champions League finalists, Toronto FC.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg in Toronto eight days ago, C.D. Guadalajara looked to have both hands on the CONCACAF Champions League trophy at a packed Estadio Akron on Thursday morning (UAE time) when they took the lead on 17 minutes.
A spirited Toronto FC had other ideas and the Major League Soccer (MLS) champions fought-back with two goals before half-time, squaring the tie 3-3 on aggregate. After a scoreless second half and no extra-time in the final, the match went to penalties, with the determined Mexicans converting four straight spot-kicks to come out on top.
C.D. Guadalajara’s dramatic victory sealed their first-ever triumph in the current CONCACAF Champions League format and a first continental crown since 1962, when the competition was called the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The Mexico champions now progress to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, which will be held in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain from December 12-22.
In claiming glory, C.D. Guadalajara are the 11th consecutive Mexican winners of the CONCACAF Champions League, underlining the Central American country’s ongoing dominance in the competition, which was renamed in 2008.
“It is something very important and transcendental in the history of this club since a FIFA Club World Cup has never happened for Chivas and this trophy (CONCACAF Champions League
hasn’t been won since 1962,” said former Argentina captain Matias Almeyda, C.D. Guadalajara’s head coach.
Almeyda’s men started the game as hot favourites following a hard-fought, first-leg win in a freezing Toronto eight days ago and an expectant 46,000 capacity crowd inside C.D Guadalajara’s stadium in Zapopan, Jalisco, were ecstatic when on 17 minutes when Orbelin Pineda fired home the opener. The home side’s Rodolfo Pizzaro dispossessed Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio in midfield and drove forward, slipping a perfectly timed pass behind a back-tracking Toronto FC defence for Pineda. The midfielder, who had made a fine run from the left, finished in style, taking the ball wide of goalkeeper Alex Bono and slotting home.
The visitors refused to buckle and were back in the tie seven minutes later. Liechtenstein intentional Nicolas Hasler held off the home defence with skilful play in the box, cutting the ball back from the byline for USA forward Jozy Altidore to steer home from six yards.
Toronto FC then took a 2-1 lead on the night and levelled the tie at 3-3 on aggregate through Italy international Sebastian Giovinco. The Canadian team’s all-time leading goalscorer ran onto a ball from Marky Delgado and fired home at the near post from 18 yards to set up a grandstand finish.
With 30 minutes to go, C.D. Guadalajara’s José Godinez hit the post, before Delgado missed a great chance to seal victory in injury time. Played in by the impressive Giovinco, the midfielder fired over the crossbar from close range, sending the match to penalties.
After C.D. Guadalajara’s Oswaldo Alanis and Giovinco converted from the spot, Godinez scored to put the pressure was on the visitors. Toronto’s Osorio blazed his spot-kick over the bar and Pulido increased the home side’s advantage. Delgado made up for his earlier miss with a pinpoint penalty inside the right goalpost but Zaldivar kept his cool to make it 4-2 to the hosts. When Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley skewed his kick over the bar, C.D. Guadalajara were crowned champions, sealing their ticket to Abu Dhabi.
The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 will feature eight competitive matches contested by seven continental club champions across two stadia – Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi and Hazza Bin Zayed in Al Ain – to decide the best club side on the planet.
And C.D. Guadalajara will be setting their sights on going one further than compatriots Pachuca, who beat hosts Al Jazira to claim third place in last season’s competition in Abu Dhabi.
Masterminded by Almeyda, a world-class defensive midfielder in his playing days, C.D. Guadaljara have built their title-winning campaign on a mean defence. The Striped Goats only conceded four goals in this season’s CONCACAF Champions League knock-out stages, seeing off Cibao FC, Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls in the last 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.
“It is with great pleasure that we welcome our first official qualifier for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 in C.D. Guadalajara. The Mexican champions demonstrated great desire, togetherness and team spirit in their CONCACAF Champions League run, attributes that will serve them well when they face the continental club champions from across the football world in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain this December,” said His Excellency Aref Al Awani, Tournament Director, of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 Local Organising Committee.
“Mexican teams have a rich history in the FIFA Club World Cup. Pachuca performed admirably last year and the fans in the emirates embraced them. I’m confident C.D. Guadalajara will do the same this year.”
C.D. Guadalajara were founded in 1906 as Club Deportivo Guadalajara. Nicknamed Las Chivas (The Goats), Las Chivas Rayadas (The Striped Goats), El Rebaño Sagrado (The Sacred Herd), Los Rojiblancos (The Red-and-Whites) and El Chiverío (The Goat Cavalry), the club won a first Liga MX title in 1957. They have gone on to become one of the most successful clubs in Mexico, winning 12 titles in total - a league record shared with fierce rivals Club America. C.D. Guadalajara’s Liga MX title win in 2017 was their first since 2006.
The club have also won the Copa MX four times; the Campeon de Campeones, an annual competition between the two winners of the Liga MX season’s Apertura and Clausura, a record seven times; and the Supercopa MX once.
Almeyda is the club’s 20th manager since the beginning of 2006 but has steadied the ship to awaken a sleeping giant. Marshalled by defensive lynchpins Oswaldo Alanis, a current Mexico international, and 38-year-old veteran captain, Carlos Salcido – who won 124 caps for Mexico between 2004 and 2014 – C.D. Guadalajara make life tough for the opposition and were the most fouled team in this season’s CONCACAF Champions League, with more than 104 fouls against them.
C.D. Guadalajara recognise fans for their dedicated support and have retired the No.12 shirt in honor of the fans – the club’s 12th man.
The club and their passionate fans will now wait to see who will join them at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018. Europe’s representatives will be decided after the UEFA Champions League final on May 26, the Oceania champions will be confirmed in May, while the African, Asian and South American (Copa Libertadores) will all be decided in November.