Klopp likens Liverpool’s Club World Cup mission to moon landing

Manager says he has grown to respect tournament as he eyes historic win in Qatar

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp speaks at a press conference in Khalifa International Stadium ahead his side’s Club World Cup final against Flamengo. Photograph: Corinna Kern/Reuters

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp speaks at a press conference in Khalifa International Stadium ahead his side’s Club World Cup final against Flamengo. Photograph: Corinna Kern/Reuters

 

Liverpool v Flamengo, Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Saturday, 5.30pm Irish time  - Live on RTÉ2 and BBC1

Jürgen Klopp believes Flamengo carry the hopes of an entire continent in Saturday’s Club World Cup final but will not surpass Liverpool’s desire to create history by winning the competition for the first time.

The Liverpool manager compared the European champions’ mission in Qatar to the moon landing as they attempt to make the giant leap that eluded Bob Paisley’s team in 1981, Joe Fagan’s in 1984 and Rafael Benítez’s in 2005. Klopp admits his respect has increased for the Club World Cup during his time in the Gulf state although, with 15,000 fans expected to travel from Brazil to support the Copa Libertadores’ winners, he admits South American passion for the competition remains unrivalled.

Brazilian clubs have won the title 10 times in its various guises compared with two English triumphs, by Manchester United. Flamengo’s 3-0 victory over Liverpool in the Intercontinental Cup 38 years ago has been celebrated in song and on banners by their supporters in Doha. But Klopp insists Liverpool’s ambition to add the Club World Cup to Anfield’s roll of honour is as strong as the backing for the Brazilian champions.

Heroes

Klopp, who has Virgil van Dijk available, said: “I don’t know how you approach something that has never been done before – it is like landing on the moon.

“We are playing against a side from a country and continent where this competition means everything to everyone and, in England, we have to explain why we come here. That’s how Europe looks at the world, that we are the centre of attention.

“Flamengo got sent here from their country with a clear order: win it and come back as heroes. We got told: stay at home and play the Carabao Cup. That’s a massive difference, and we cannot change that, but we are here and my team wants to win the competition. Since we are here we respect it more and more because you get a feeling for it. You watch the games and it is all or nothing with everyone fighting for everything. So we saw that, adapted to it, won our semi-final in a very difficult situation and now we try to do the same against a very good side that finished their season on a super high by turning everything around from eight points behind to 16 points in front while winning the Copa Libertadores too.”

Van Dijk completed his first full training session on Friday since arriving in Qatar having missed the semi-final defeat of Monterrey through illness. Although the competition may be regarded differently in Europe and South America, Klopp insists that will not be the case between the teams.

“It means more to them [fans in South America] but to the players? No,” he said. “Did it mean more to Tottenham in the Champions League final? More to Chelsea [in the Super Cup final]? When our boys play football they show every time they want to win. Is it an advantage the whole country or continent wants Flamengo to win it more? I don’t know. Mexico wanted to win it more than people in England and we beat their team, so we will see.

“For the players it is no problem. We spoke about it a few months ago and asked how did they want to play it? It wasn’t that they could decide but how do you see it? They said: ‘We go!’ Since then it’s never changed. The boys are 100 per cent clear. They didn’t need Ali [Alisson] telling them or Bobby [Firmino] telling them or Fabinho telling them about the importance.

Pressure

“They are footballers, they are sportsmen and they want to win everything they can. It is how it sounds: the team world cup winner. You don’t often get the chance to do so and for most of them, with the countries they play for, they never have a chance to win a World Cup so this is the only chance. For me as well. But who cares about me? I don’t feel pressure but I feel a really big opportunity and I want to do it.”

Klopp will become the first German coach to win the Club World Cup in its current form should Liverpool emerge victorious. Compatriots Ottmar Hitzfeld and Dettmar Cramer won the Intercontinental Cup with Bayern Munich. The Liverpool manager admitted he does not know what the trophy looks like and, along with most Europeans, paid little attention to the competition in his youth. That was in stark contrast to Alisson, Liverpool’s Brazilian goalkeeper, who has been captivated by the tournament from an early age.

“It is a dream come true,” Alisson said. “When I was 14 my former club Internacional became Club World Cup champions in 2006 and I watched it as a supporter. I was so excited. Then I started to dream of this. Now I am here, with this big opportunity to win it for the first time with Liverpool against a big club.

“It is big for Brazilians but I think it is bigger for who is playing in the game. If you are on the outside of this competition you don’t give it value. It is elite, it is just for the winners. It is important to make history and put our names in the club as the first time ever that Liverpool won it.”

For Jorge Jesus’s team, motivation comes not only from the significance of the Club World Cup but the memory of the 10 academy players who died in a fire at Flamengo’s youth team training centre in February.

The winger Éverton Ribeiro said: “The message to the families is may God be with them and we will dedicate this title to the players and their spirits. It’s a sad story in the history of Flamengo and it is a source of inspiration and motivation. We hope winning the title will bring comfort to the families of the deceased.”

– Guardian

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