By Brian Homewood
San Lorenzo, undeterred by the big gulf that separates them from Real Madrid, have vowed to play with “a knife between our teeth” when they face the European champions in Saturday’s Club World Cup final (9.30pm).
The champions of South America, who count Pope Francis and Hollywood actor Viggo Mortensen among their supporters, spent three million euros in the last transfer window while Real splashed out 80 million euros this year on James Rodriguez alone.
“We’ll have to fight for each ball as if it were the last,” said San Lorenzo midfielder Leandro Romagnoli. “If we respect them too much it will be impossible.
“If we give them any freedom they will hurt us a lot … we have to play with a knife between our teeth,” he added, repeating a phrase often used by Atletico Madrid coach and former Argentina captain Diego Simeone.
San Lorenzo are attempting to become the first Argentine side to win the tournament since it started in its current format in 2005.
Boca Juniors and Estudiantes have previously reached the final, losing to AC Milan and Barcelona respectively.
That record is a stark contrast to the old Intercontinental Cup, played by the European and South American champions, which Argentine sides won a record nine times, sometimes in less than salubrious circumstances.
The difference in wealth between South American and European football means the teams from the two continents no longer meet on equal terms and matches have become a David-versus-Goliath affair.
While Real’s bench is brimming with internationals, the only member of the San Lorenzo squad who played at the 2014 World Cup is Colombian defender Mario Yepes, 38.
San Lorenzo, backed by an army of 5,000 travelling fans, hardly boosted their credentials in Wednesday’s semi-final as they scraped a 2-1 extra-time win over Auckland City’s team of part-timers.
“I believe 100 per cent in our chances,” said coach Edgardo Bauza who led Ecuador’s LDU in the 2008 final against Manchester United. “You have to dream of winning.”
Real, aiming for a 22nd consecutive victory in all competitions, have never previously taken part in the tournament and had a mixed record in the Intercontinental Cup with three wins and two defeats in five outings.