FIFA Club World Cup 2016

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Kashima defenders: Real Madrid better “beware of crocodiles”

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Kashima Antlers are at home for the FIFA Club World Cup final against Real Madrid, where the

Yokohama Stadium is about a two-hour drive from Kashima’s home base, a bit closer to home than Spain. But Real is still the heavy favorites to keep the CWC in Spain for a third-successive season.

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Don’t sleep on the Antlers, though. The squad is fired up for the chance to make history, and the words of 22-year-old defender Naomichi Ueda work for us. From the BBC:

“I’m a crocodile. … Just as a crocodile will complete its conquest by dragging its prey into the water, I just want to bring them down – whether it’s in the air or on the ground, one on one.”

Now if crocodiles had antlers… well, that’s a futuristic sight I’d be happy to see. Kickoff on Sunday is at 5:30 a.m. EDT.

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Real Madrid reach Club World Cup final after win over Club America

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A goal at the end of each half led Real Madrid past Club America and into Sunday’s FIFA Club World Cup final against the Kashima Antlers.

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In the semifinal clash in Yokohama, Karim Benzema opened the scoring right on half time and in second half stoppage time recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo added a second (the 500th goal of his career) as Real extended its unbeaten run to 36 games in all competitions with the 2-0 win.

In truth it was a pretty low-key encounter between UEFA Champions League winners Real and reigning CONCACAF Champions League champs Club America, but the quality of Zinedine Zidane’s team shone through in the end.

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Real will now face Japanese champions Kashima Antlers on Sunday in the final in Yokohama after the team from the host nation shocked Atletico Nacional in the other semifinal.

Club America and Atletico Nacional will play the in the third place match, also in Yokohama on Sunday.

Below are the highlights of Thursday’s Club World Cup semifinal, as Real now aim to become the fourth-straight European winners of the competitions which has seen eight of its last nine champions hail from Europe.

Benzema’s lovely finish opened the scoring right on half time

Ronaldo puts a bow on it

Zidane lavishes praise on Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo

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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wouldn’t be surprised if Cristiano Ronaldo keeps winning awards.

Ronaldo earned his fourth Ballon d’Or prize on Monday, and is now targeting a third title at the Club World Cup.

“It is very rare that one player wins so many awards,” Zidane said Wednesday. “His fourth Ballon d’Or is a great achievement. It is not something you can easily achieve. Maybe he deserves a fifth Ballon d’Or.”

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Another trophy would move Ronaldo level with Lionel Messi.

Madrid is in Japan to face Mexican side Club America in the Club World Cup semifinals on Thursday. The team, currently in first place in the Spanish league, is favored to win yet another title.

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10: Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid celebrates after Real beat RC Deportivo La Coruna 3-2 in the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 10, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Ramos will not play against Club America (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images).

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos will miss the match, but Zidane is hopeful he will be fit to return if Madrid makes the final.

“He is not in a serious condition but he is a little bit tired after a long journey and I don’t want to put him under any physical pressure,” Zidane said.

Club America came from a goal down to beat South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai 2-1 in Sunday’s quarterfinals. The Mexican side is marking its centenary this year, and Zidane is sure they are highly motivated.

“Some clubs only have one chance in a lifetime to play against Real Madrid and I think it is a very good opportunity for them,” the former France great said.

Madrid hasn’t lost in any competition since April 6, a run which has stretched to a club record 35 games.

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Zidane, however, doesn’t feel that adds any extra pressure to him or his players.

“Real Madrid is always under pressure because we must win, people expect us to win,” Zidane said. “Winning 50 or 40 games, there is not much difference.”

The winner of Thursday’s match will face either Atletico Nacional or Kashima Antlers in Sunday’s final in Yokohama.

Madrid still has a chance to claim an unprecedented quadruple. It leads the Spanish league by six points and is also into the last 16 of the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

European sides have dominated the Club World Cup in recent years, winning eight of the past nine editions.

Club World Cup: Kashima Antlers reach final; Jeonbuk takes fifth

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One half of this year’s FIFA Club World Cup final was determined on Wednesday, while history was made during the match.

[ MORE: Video assistant replay decision used for first time in competition ]

The Kashima Antlers punched their ticket to the competition’s finale after defeating South American side Atletico Nacional, 3-0.

With the victory, the Japanese club will either face Real Madrid or Club America in the tournament final on Sunday.

Kashima took the lead in the 33rd minute after a historic moment occurred when a video assistant referee (VAR) decision was used to determine a penalty kick. Shouma Doi converted the ensuing spot kick, before Yasushi Endoh and Yuma Suzuki tacked on insurance for the team playing on home soil.

Meanwhile, Jeonbuk captured fifth place in the tournament after a convincing 4-1 win over South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns saw the South Korean club take home the honors.

A trio of first-half finishes gave Jeonbuk a decisive advantage before the halftime, while a late tally from Kim Shin-Wook ensured the victory would go the side’s way.

Mamelodi pulled a goal back through Percy Tau three minutes into the second stanza, but any potential comeback attempt was halted by Shin-Wook’s late strike.

Club World Cup match uses first video assistant referee decision

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Many sports have migrated more to video technology over recent years, and soccer continues to make strides in that area as well.

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During Wednesday’s FIFA Club World Cup semifinal match between the Kashima Antlers and Atletico Nacional, history was made as a video assistant referee (VAR) used instant replay technology to determine a penalty kick decision.

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The historic moment occurred during the first half when Kashima’s Daigo Nishi was brought down inside the Atletico penalty area by Orlando Berrio.

Nishi had originally been in an offsides position during the initial free kick, however, the referee ruled that the Kashima player wasn’t affecting the play.

On the ensuing penalty kick Shouma Doi converted for Kashima to give the Japanese side the 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute.