It was certainly very much a case of mixed emotions, but ultimately the only part of last night’s game from which I did not draw complete joy was the minute in which Manchester United scored their fourth and fifth goals. It would, after all, have been a sorry ending for Gamba Osaka to have been beaten by so many. However, Akira Nishino had demonstrated his attacking intentions from the very beginning with a 4-3-3 formation, and his side repaid him by keeping their heads high, and going on to score a wonderful third goal themselves even after they had pulled one back from the penalty spot. United may well have switched off by this point, with the result already certain, but Hideo Hashimoto’s injury-time strike will be a source of great inspiration for the players, staff, and fans of Gamba, and perhaps indeed for Japanese football as a whole.
Last year, Urawa Reds defended strongly against AC Milan, and their 1-0 defeat certainly appears to be a narrower defeat on paper than yesterday’s 5-3. It will, however, have surely left a much greater impression around the world to see two attacking teams from Europe and Asia come together in a contest that produced eight goals, and in which Gamba were able to shine on a number of occasions. The importance of the Club World Cup may be questioned within Europe, but the experience in Yokohama for Gamba was absolutely priceless.
The Gamba supporters made their mark as well, even earning a mention on the BBC website, and while I was sitting in a neutral section on this occasion, this was something to feel proud of too. It was, for me, simply the perfect match.
Incidentally, on the Shinkansen on the way back to Osaka this morning, I was working out that if we assume the following –
Manchester United will win the UEFA Champions League once every ten years
Gamba Osaka will qualify for the ACL once every two years, and win it once every five attempts
If both clubs qualify for the Club World Cup in the same year, the chances of their meeting are 50%
– then official matches like yesterday’s between United and Gamba will only happen once every 200 years. Of course, these intervals become longer still if we stipulate that we want the game to be played in Japan, or to produce eight goals…
In any case, I will already be back home for the holiday season before Sunday’s final, as this year’s Club World Cup is being played a week later than normal, but having witnessed my own personal game of the century (millennium?), I couldn’t care less.