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America fades out of Club World Cup but shows how far it has come

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 361

Pin Silvio Romero fighting against Cristiano Ronaldo. Goal
Silvio Romero fighting against Cristiano Ronaldo. Goal

America fades out of Club World Cup but shows how far it has come

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 361

A goal just before halftime changed everything for the Liga MX side, which had a decent first half but ultimately couldn't keep up with Real Madrid in a Club World Cup semifinal.

Imagine how different Ricardo La Volpe's halftime speech would've been.

Club Ameirca was just minutes away from going into the locker room level with Real Madrid, the European champion, one of the biggest teams in the world. It hadn't necessarily been a stunning first half for the CONCACAF champion - Moises Munoz was needed on multiple occasions, and the goalkeeper's post helped him out on a Ronaldo header in the 26th minute. But it had been a good opening 45 minutes for America. The Mexican side found half-chances, it won set pieces, it defended well.

Then, the goal fell, and as it so often does it changed everything. Toni Kroos threaded a pass through to Karim Benzema, who had burst past Paolo Goltz and finally beat Munoz two minutes into first-half stoppage time. The Argentine tactician had to modify his speech. It went from, "We've got this, boys," to "We've got to go chase this".

La Volpe had gambled a bit, staying with the three-center-back system he's fond of despite Real Madrid's three pacey and pressuring forwards. He had to make a switch. He brought on a second central midfielder and went to a back four. It nearly held, but Ronaldo eventually got his goal and America finished with a 2-0 loss.

The bits of hope for America that it might score in the first half went away quickly after Benzema's opener, though. Once Madrid had the lead, America hardly challenged.

Rubens Sambueza, back from injury, showed some of the dynamism that America has missed during its run to the Liga MX final but clearly didn't have 60 good minutes in him, much less a full 90. Renato Ibarra was stuck dealing with Marcelo's advances most of the day and was unable to help forwards Silvio Romero and Oribe Peralta, who were starved of the ball early and only became hungrier for possession as the contest wore on.

Though Madrid's talent advantage came through in the second half as America failed to put much of anything together other than scrambling to stop Los Blancos from adding to their lead, there's still plenty that America can be proud of. For one, it still can match Necaxa's third-place finish at the 2000 Club World Cup, still the best showing from any CONCACAF club. And when Las Aguilas return to Mexico they'll have a domestic final to play, one that seems much more achievable if Sambueza and Ibarra are healthy. 

Liga MX draft passes quietly

Reaching the third-place game a year after an embarrassing early exit to Asian champion Guangzhou Evergrande shows progress, but the team staying within touching distance of Madrid just months after being blown out by league rivals like Chivas and Leon speaks more to the improvement it has made under La Volpe than some sort of growth over a calendar year. Former manager Nacho Ambriz's team would've been a mess against Madrid, but La Volpe has crafted a side that will go into the final against Tigres as a contender if not the favorite to lift the trophy.

La Volpe installing his system after grooming players to fill the roles has helped America return to giant status in its own region, even if it's nowhere near enough for America to become a titan on the world stage like the Madrid team that beat it Thursday.

BeSoccer

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