The semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014 will stage the eagerly-awaited first match of title favourites Real Madrid, who face Mexican side Cruz Azul for the first time ever.
Cruz Azul – Real Madrid, Le Grand Stade de Marrakech, Tuesday 16 December, 19:30 (local time)
Real Madrid travel to Morocco with the added incentive of trying to win one of the few trophies not yet housed in their bulging silverware cabinet. The record Spanish champions have only appeared in the competition once before, but finished in fourth place in 2000. Madrid lost to Mexican side Necaxa in the Play-off for Third Place that year, although defeat to another CONCACAF representative seems unlikely this time given the current form of the reigning UEFA Champions League winners. Coach Carlo Ancelotti’s charges have won each of their last 20 games in all competitions, with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in particularly dazzling form.
Should Cruz Azul triumph, however, they would become the first Mexican side to reach a Club World Cup final. That will be far from easy, as La Maquina only progressed to the last four after a draining 120 minutes on a heavy pitch in the quarter-finals against Western Sydney Wanderers FC, eventually earning a 3-1 victory after extra time. Veteran captain Gerardo Torrado emerged as the match-winner by converting two penalties, becoming only the second Mexican player to hit a brace at a Club World Cup after his team-mate Christian Gimenez did so for Pachuca against Al-Ahly in 2008.
61 - The number of goals Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in all competitions for club and country so far in 2014, the fourth consecutive calendar year he has broken the 60-goal barrier. He set a personal best of 69 in 2013.
"We aim to win every competition we play in. There’s a good atmosphere in the team. If I had to give them a grade, they would get a very high mark. We finished the year well in the league and now it’s time to concentrate on the Club World Cup. We have to win it." Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti
"We’re so excited, of course. We’ve been thinking about Real Madrid for a long time, but we had to focus on the Western Sydney game and ensure we got a result. We’re playing the best team in the world, who have won 20 straight matches. They’re not only the favourites to beat us but also to win the Club World Cup. But it’s also true that surprises happen in football." Cruz Azul coach Luis Fernando Tena