1. Essa the penalty king. Al Ain were good value for “the biggest result in the history of the country”, which is how Zoran Mamic, the manager, described their semi-final, shoot-out win over River Plate. They were, though, also indebted to a virtuoso display by their goalkeeper, Khalid Essa, who repelled the South Americans repeatedly during the 120 minutes, then decided the outcome by blocking Enzo Perez’s penalty. Reuters
2. Classic Khaseif. When Mamic said his side needed a great performance from their goalkeeper if they were to stand a chance in Saturday’s final, it was with memories of Ali Khaseif’s semi-final heroics for Al Jazira a year ago in mind. Jazira’s goalkeeper made eight stops in the first half against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co, before going off – probably through exhaustion – in the second.
“We were kind of joking about it on the bench, then it started to get a bit more serious,” Gareth Bale, who eventually scored the decider in a 2-1 win for Madrid, said. Reuters
3. VAR games. If Al Jazira were told they were going to be 2-0 up against world champions Real Madrid in that game last year, they might have been minded to think that, if something seems too good to be true it usually is. Such was the case when they held exactly that advantage, after Mbark Boussoufa shot past Keylor Navas at the start of the second half, to add to Romarinho’s early opener. The Video Assistant Referee rained on the parade, as the goal was chalked off for offside. Reuters
4. Modric’s crowning glory. In 2015, Lionel Messi scored in Barcelona’s 3-0 win over River Plate. In 2016, Ronaldo got three against Kashima Antlers, then another a year later against Gremio. Three finals, and the Ballon d’Or holder scored each time. Was Luka Modric capable of matching his celebrated forebears? Of course he was. The best player of 2018 took just 14 minutes to make his mark in the final against Al Ain. EPA
5. Barcia’s bolt from the blue. Some of the game’s greatest players have trodden the turf of the UAE over the past two years. But it is arguable that the best goal in the two Club World Cups here was scored by none of Bale, Ronaldo, nor Modric. Instead, it was a part-timer from Argentina, who learned to speak English while living in hostels and working on building sites in New Zealand. Mario Barcia’s long-range strike for Team Wellington against Al Ain was world-class. Reuters
6. Bale’s hat-trick. Bale might not always be the favourite of Madridistas. If he played all his matches for them at Zayed Sports City, he would be an unqualified club legend, though.
He scored the goal that eventually staved off Jazira in 2017. Then, in the first match of Mardid’s title defence a year later, he struck three in 11 minutes – the fastest hat-trick in the tournament’s history – to beat Kashima Antlers. Reuters
7. Ahmed makes history. While Bale hit the fastest treble, Mohammed Ahmed scored the fastest Club World Cup goal of any sort, during the 2018 event. The Al Ain defender struck 79 seconds into the win over Esperance de Tunis, beating the previous fastest, that of Atletico Mineiro’s Diego Tardelli in 2013, by 32 seconds. It set in train an extraordinary run of events that led the UAE representatives through to the final. Reuters
8. Ronaldo’s final flourish. Ticket sales were not as brisk in 2018 as they had been 12 months earlier. That might well be due to the fact Ronaldo has since flown the Madrid nest to Juventus, and thus was not here. He did enough to entertain the masses a year ago, scoring in both the semi-final win against Jazira, then the free-kick that settled the title against Gremio. Reuters
9. Everton’s sweet success. The champions of South America against the champions of Europe is generally the final that most crave.
Al Ain ruined that equation this year by doing for River Plate, but Gremio made no mistake last year. They went through to the final against Madrid after Everton, their left-winger, score an extra-time winner to beat Mexican side Pachuca at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. EPA
10. Ramos the panto villain. The tournament coincides with pantomime season, and Sergio Ramos was jeered as frequently in the 2018 final as the most odious of villains. The Zayed Sports City Stadium crowd should have been shouting “he’s behind you” to the Al Ain defence in the second half, as the Madrid captain rose to settle the game in his side’s favour. EPA