Club World Cup final was settled by a lengthy VAR check, in a game played miles from home during a raging global pandemic, in a soulless Qatari stadium built by exploited workers. If you’ve just tuned in, you’re watching modern football.
Benjamin Pavard had the honor of scoring the winner, seizing on Robert Lewandowski’s nod down and thrashing in from close range to maintain Europe’s dominance in this competition. Bayern become the 13th European winner in the last 14 editions of an event that FIFA President Gianni Infantino is convinced will be the “best club competition in the world”.
FIFA’s Club World Cup brings together the six continental champions, as well as the host nation’s league champions. That’s Al-Duhail, in case you were wondering. However, this sporting spectacle was between Europe’s finest, Bayern Munich, and the CONCACAF Champions League winners Tigres.
The Mexican side have dominated Liga MX for the best part of a decade and are among the best supported teams in Mexico. Spearheaded by former France striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, they seemed to enjoy their chance to measure themselves against the best in the business. But after an intense display in the first half, Tigres run out of steam in the second.
Ultimately, even the second best team in this tournament were no competition for Bayern, who were without Thomas Müller who tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday and Jerome Boateng, who returned to Germany early on compassionate grounds.
According to the official Qatar 2022 website, Education City stadium is a “state-of-the-art arena with advanced cooling technologies and innovation and sustainability at its core”. However, the oil-rich state clearly couldn’t stretch the budget to a decent pitch. Players from both sides were stumbling on a clearly inadequate playing surface which combined patchy grass with half of the Arabian Peninsula’s desert.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick was concerned enough by the sandy conditions to hook Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Lewandowski from the game shortly after Pavard’s goal. It didn’t affect Bayern, who cruised to their sixth trophy under Flick and a ‘sextuplet’ that only the great Barcelona team of 2009 achieved.