Club World Cup final: Messi to face Argentina powers River Plate

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

It’s Argentina’s best versus, well, Argentina’s best.

Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Barcelona seek the club’s third Club World Cup title early Sunday when they take on River Plate in Japan.

Mascherano actually started his career with the Argentine champs, and will look to deny River Plate its first ever Club World Cup (Messi started with Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys at age 7, moving to Barcelona at age 13).

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Barca is a heavy favorite here, and counts nine of South America’s best on its roster. There’s a flip to the script, too, with longtime Barcelona player Javier Saviola in the River Plate set-up.

The two sides have never met, which is one of the major allures of such a tournament. Far from home, and in the wee hours of the European morning, anything can happen.

That said, the Club World Cup has been dominated by UEFA. Other confederations have a grand total of one title since 2007 after Brazilian clubs swept the first three. Barcelona can give a nation back-to-back titles for the first time since Internacional capped Brazil’s run in 2006.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Guangzhou Evergrande play the third-place game at 2 a.m. ET Sunday before Barca and River Plate tangle at 5:30 a.m. ET.