Teams from two of football’s superpower nations found out their opponents in the Club World Cup semi-finals on Thursday as Tigres of Mexico set up a showdown with Brazilian club Palmeiras and Al Ahly qualified to face German giants Bayern Munich.
Tigres beat South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 and Egyptian side Al Ahly overcame Al Duhail 1-0 to firm up the last four in Qatar.
No South American team have won the tournament since Corinthians beat Chelsea in 2012 and Palmeiras are eager to go one better than in 1999, when they lost 1-0 to Manchester United.
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The Sao Paulo club won their second Copa Libertadores less than a week ago, beating Santos with a last-gasp goal at the Maracana stadium.
FIFA rules mean Breno Lopes, who scored that winner, cannot participate but in Danilo, Gabriel Menino and Patrick de Paula, they have a young and highly rated midfield, as well as exciting wingers Rony and Gabriel Veron and veteran goalkeeper Weverton.
However, even reaching the final is no longer a given for the South Americans.
When this title was reserved solely for South America and European teams before 2005, the Latin clubs won 22 to Europe’s 21.
In two of the last four years, however, they have fallen at the semi-final stage to teams from Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Palmeiras’s opponents Tigres are the standout Mexican side of recent years, winning five league titles and a CONCACAF Champions League since 2010, all under the guidance of Brazilian coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti.
Mexican clubs have reached the last four of the Club World Cup nine times but never the final, and their top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac lauded his team after they came from 1-0 down to beat the Koreans.
"We came here to make history and we are through a first round that wasn’t easy," Gignac said. "We had the character to come back."
The winners of the Tigres-Palmeiras match will likely face Champions League winners Bayern Munich in the final.
The German champions hope to cap a successful 12 months in which they won the Champions League and their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title and whose striker Robert Lewandowski was crowned the Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year.
Victory in Qatar would be Bayern's sixth title in nine months, a record for German football.
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"The tournament is an opportunity for us to wrap up this huge run of success we had with the Champions League win last summer," said Bayern forward Thomas Muller.
"We want to crown this outstanding year by winning the Club World Cup, so we're very ambitious concerning this trophy. As a European team, we are certainly favourites. We want to underline that and win the trophy as well, but it'll certainly be a challenge."
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