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Can Club America top Real Madrid? Mexican side can look to historic example

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 1,111

Pin Club America  will face Real Madrid in the Club World Cup. Goal
Club America will face Real Madrid in the Club World Cup. Goal

Can Club America top Real Madrid? Mexican side can look to historic example

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 1,111

The Mexican side is the heavy underdog against the UEFA champion, but it wouldn't be unprecedented for Las Aguilas to shock Los Blancos.

A general rule of thumb when you come across a question in a headline is to answer "No," and you could do that with this piece. Can Club America top Real Madrid in the Club World Cup? The gut instinct is to deny the possibility.

After all, while America is a very good squad, one that won the CONCACAF Champions League and will be contesting the Liga MX final when it returns from Japan, it's not the best team in the world. Real Madrid quite possibly is. It has the best player in the world, at least according to those who selected Cristiano Ronaldo the Ballon d'Or winner earlier this week. It has other players among the best in the world at their positions. America has good players, maybe even some great players in the case of Rubens Sambueza or Silvio Romero (for now we'll leave out that Sambueza is an injury worry for Thursday's semifinal). But America does not have the best players in the world.

That puts it at a distinct disadvantage when coming up against Real Madrid. There could especially be issues on the right side of defense where Ronaldo and Marcelo can cause havoc on whomever coach Ricardo La Volpe elects to put on that side. Winger Renato Ibarra and right wingback Ventura Alvarado have been serviceable in the Liga MX playoffs, but La Volpe elected to make a change at both spots against Jeonbuk Motors with Ibarra injured. He could return Thursday, and Alvarado had a solid shift in the second half of a 2-1 quarterfinal win over the Korean side.

But even with the attacking power Real Madrid boasts, and the stifling defense that has helped it set a club-record 35-match unbeaten streak heading into the semifinal, there is still hope for America. That's why matches are played, after all. After getting out of the quarterfinal, America realizes the expectations are low heading into a clash against the reigning UEFA champion, especially after getting out of the quarterfinal — something the team failed to do in 2015.

"Last year we left with a bad taste in our mouth," attacker Darwin Quintero said. "Now we can enjoy it because anything can happen because of the faith we have that we can beat Real Madrid".

Beyond faith, America can look to a concrete example. In the very first edition of the Club World Cup, when the tournament was still called the FIFA Club World Championship, a Mexican team got past Real Madrid and managed a third-place finish. Necaxa, the very team America eliminated in the Liga MX semifinals, drew with Manchester United in the 2000 edition and eventually advanced to a third-place game against Los Blancos.

Ecuador legend Agustin Delgado hit an equalizer after an opener by Raul, and the match went to penalty kicks. Misses from Steve McManaman and Javier Dorado meant Delgado's fifth kick was for the game. He converted, and Los Rayos finished off a win over Real Madrid for third place.

America could fight for third place — even if the expected defeat to Real Madrid comes. But it also can look to the example of a team it once shared a stadium with to know that an unlikely upset is possible.

"We've also got quality and players who play on their respective national teams," midfielder Michael Arroyo said. "We know their squad, but we've also got a lot of quality, and we've just got to show that on the field".

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