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Football | International

Tite © Action Images

Corinthians taking Euro style to Tokyo



The Corinthians side that will feature in the Club World Cup in Tokyo on Wednesday has the ammunition to ambush European champions Chelsea if the two teams get through to Sunday's final as expected.

The Brazilians won South America's version of the Champions League at a relative canter in July, going unbeaten for 14 Libertadores Cup games and conceding just four goals.

Corinthians play a dour but effective European-style pressing game and their biggest plus is the club's long-held mantra of putting teamwork and hard graft ahead of individual brilliance.

"It's one of the real strengths of this team," coach Tite told Fifa.com ahead of Wednesday's semifinal against Egypt's Al-Ahly. "If you have a group of players that only look out for themselves, that's the first step towards failure.

"But playing as a team doesn't mean that players won't stand out. They understand that by all pulling together they'll create a winning team that'll give everyone a chance to shine."

Chelsea's expensive collection of international players meet Monterrey of Mexico in the other semifinal on Thursday.

The laconic Tite has strengthened his Corinthians squad since leading them to their first Libertadores title.

The coach lost Leandro Castan to AS Roma and Alex to Al-Gharafa of Qatar but made up for that by signing Peruvian Jose Paulo Guerrero from Hamburg SV, Jose Manuel Martinez from Argentines Velez Sarsfield and midfielder Guilherme from hometown rivals Portuguesa.

Young striker Romarinho has established himself as a regular while Paulinho and Ralf have been commanding enough in midfield to win regular berths with Brazil.

Goalkeeper Cassio and full back Fabio Santos have also earned callups to the national team.

OCEAN OF STABILITY

In addition Corinthians can count on the return of Emerson Sheik. The much-travelled striker was inspirational in the Libertadores Cup, scoring three of their five goals in the semifinals and final.

He has missed most of the season through injury and suspension but is now fully fit and should start against Al-Ahly.

While Chelsea have just hired Rafael Benitez on an interim basis, the London club's third coach in nine months, Corinthians are a relative ocean of stability.

The Brazilians have had the same coach for two years, an unusually long time in a nation where volatility and fireworks are not limited to the terraces.

"(Corinthians) have been more European than the English," said Luiz Fernando Gomes, columnist with Brazilian sports newspaper Lance. "Organisation on and off the pitch is the order of the day."

The Brazilians are treating the Club World Cup seriously, with an estimated 15 000 fans seeing them off at the airport last week and a similar number likely to travel to roar on their side in Japan.

If Corinthians win the competition it will be the 10th time a Brazilian side has lifted the trophy since it was first played in 1960.

Teams from Argentina, Brazil and Italy have each won the tournament nine times.

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