Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has said his team must be fully focused to avoid embarrassment in Thursday’s FIFA Club World Cup semifinal against Mexican side Club America.
Champions League holders Madrid are huge favourites to win the Club World Cup, although they must first see off CONCACAF champions on Thursday to go through to Sunday’s decider against either Colombia’s Copa Libertadores winners’ Atletico Nacional or Japan’s tournament hosts Kashina Antlers.
“We can’t think about finals,” Ramos told FIFA.com. “You have to stay focused on the next match, because objectives can only be achieved step by step. You have deal with obstacles as they present themselves and you always have to show respect for the rivals you come up against.”
Madrid arrived in Japan on Monday after a 13-hour flight from Spain, and coach Zinedine Zidane has spoken about the importance of rest and preparation as they recover from jetlag. Club America have had longer to acclimatise, with a game already under their belts having beaten Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai 2-1 in Sunday’s second-round clash in Osaka.
The Club World Cup is not always seen as among the most important trophies available, but Ramos said that all players liked the idea of being able to say they were world champions.
“It’s really important to get another piece of silverware in your trophy cabinet,” he said. “It’s also great for a professional player to be able to wear the Champions Badge for a year. We’d like to get it back as we had to pass it on last year. We want a happy ending to what’s been a good year for us. Being in Japan is a prize for us and we want to take the final reward with us.”
Madrid won the tournament two years ago in Morocco, when Ramos scored in both the semifinals and the final and was named player of the tournament.
“I’ve got great memories of that tournament,” he said. “It was my first Club World Cup and, having won La Decima [Madrid’s 10th European Cup], it was a great challenge, both collectively and individually. I remember so many good things about that competition. I scored in the semis and the final and they gave me the Golden Ball. When you win the title, though, it’s just the icing on the cake.”
Most of Madrid’s 2014 winners remain at the club, and Ramos said that such continuity has helped keep the team successful.
“We’re doing a good job,” he said. “The structure and the core of the squad is the same, and that’s healthy for the team. We’ve got a better understanding with each other, and we’re on the same wavelength on the pitch too. The team’s reaping the benefits of that. We’ve got a good mix of veteran and young players.”