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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sports Saturday: Gremio, Donnarumma, and the Bowls

Every year, or almost very year, the Club World Cup is the tournament of the best of the best in the soccer world, the champions of each province of the world playing the champions of the other.  Although some clubs have won multiple times in the history of the championship, no team has won back to back.  Real Madrid, with two previous titles under the belts, will attempt to be the first back to back champs in series history. 

Today they will battle against Brazil's Gremio in the FIFA Club World Cup final.  A victory on Saturday would give them their fifth trophy of the year, they lost out only on the Copa del Rey.  In 2017, the Vikings have captured also the Primera Liga, the UEFA Champions League, the Spanish Super Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.  Coach Zidane and captain Sergio Ramos have vowed not to look beyond their Brazilian opponents.

Zinedine Zidane says Real Madrid will give their “maximum” in their bid to make history in Saturday’s FIFA Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi.  The defending champions take on Brazil’s Gremio in the showpiece at Zayed Sports City seeking to become the first team to lift the trophy in successive years. While this championship is well respected in South America and in many places in the world, Europeans tend to look beyond it to their normal season, and to the Champions League competitions. 

Zidane acknowledges that Gremio represent formidable opponents. The Porto Alegre side were the last side to book their place in the Club World Cup having late last month sealed a first Copa Libertadores crown in 22 years.  Gremio defeated Mexico’s Pachuca in Tuesday’s semi-final to secure the meeting with Madrid, while Zidane’s men struggled the following day to overcome UAE champions Al Jazira. They required an 81-minute goal from substitute Gareth Bale to seal the victory.  The come from behind win was considered a miracle by the Spanish press, and Gareth Bale was referred to as "El Salvador," the Savior.  Archrivals Barcelona are the only team which has won three Club World Cup titles, so with a victory Saturday, Real Madrid would join them on this lofty perch, vindicating themselves despite their flagging in the Spanish standings. 

Meanwhile, Gremio manager Renato Portaluppi has warned Madrid they will face a “super-motivated” opponent when the two face off in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

May the best team win. 

The US sports world is concentrated, today, on the beginning of the Bowl Season in College Football.  Today there are five bowls.  R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will be contested at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, at noon, local time.  The Troy Trojans (10–2) will battle the North Texas Mean Green (9–4), the Sun Belt Conference vs. Conference USA.  The AutoNation Cure Bowl will be played at the Camping World Stadium, Orlando Florida, pitting the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6–6) against the Georgia State Panthers (6–5), another matchup of the above conferences.  The Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada, pits the #25 Boise State Broncos (10–3) against the Oregon Ducks (7–5), the Mountain West Conference vs. the PAC 12.  Truly, if there were ever a dog of  a day in the Bowl Season, today is it, but the Boise State vs. Oregon game, matching the Mountain West Conference and the PAC 12,  is the saving grace.  There are two games rounding  out the day, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, at Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico, matching the Marshall Thundering Herd (7–5), and the Colorado State Rams (7–5), and the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, at the Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama where the Arkansas State Red Wolves (7–4) and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will play. 

An astounding controversy has erupted in Milano, Italy, where the blood feud is apparently not dead.  Last year he was the phenom, and toast of the town...  Now, AC Milan fans are venting their anger at Gianluigi Donnarumma as Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain prepare to offer goalkeeper escape.  Based on his popularity, and renown as the great white hope of Italian sport, the Italian goalkeeper signed a new contract, but is  reportedly keen to get this new contract annulled, which would allow him free agency at the end of the year.  This has enraged Milan fans, who have banded together to display massive anti Donnarumma banners at their home games. 

The banners attack both Gianluigi Donnarumma's, who has previously been featured in this space, and his  future at AC Milan.  Fans have also demanded that the "other Donnarumma," Gianluigi's  "parasite" brother leave the club.  The largest banner, unfurled at the San Siro  stadium in AC Milano's Copa Italia victory over Verona, was aimed at Donnarumma and read: "Psychological violence by giving you €6million-a-season & signing your parasite brother? It's time to leave ... our patience with you is over!"

His contract, a four-year, €6 million-a-year deal, allows Donnarumma to "annul" the deal.  Donnarumma is reportedly claiming that he signed his new contract under pressure from the Milan board, with Raiola even suggesting his client had received death threats before committing his future to the club.  That is certainly a lot to handle for a teenager.  Donnarumma burst onto the scene in 2015 as a 16-year-old and has since established himself as Milan's, and maybe Italy's undisputed No 1. Watch this space for further updates.  

Friday, December 15, 2017