Inter Milan Defeats TP Mazembe, Claims FIFA Club World Cup

inter milan fifa club world cup samuel eto'oIts roster aging, its coach under fire and its domestic dominance on the wane, Inter Milan seized its golden opportunity on Saturday and defeated overmatched Congolese side TP Mazembe. 3-0, in the FIFA Club World Cup Final.

The trophy capped an historic year for the Italian club, which captured a fifth consecutive Serie A crown, the Italian Cup and its first European Cup in 45 years last spring.

Led by Portuguese mastermind José Mourinho, Inter was a veteran team that had matured and reached its zenith in a comfortable win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final.

Mourinho moved onto Real Madrid, and replacement Rafael Benítez has been unable to prevent Inter's slide from the summit. The Nerazzurri lost to Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup and have opened the Italian season 6-4-5, good for seventh place in Serie A. It entered the Club World Cup winners of just two if its past nine matches in all competitions.

The tournament in Abu Dhabi, which pit the club champions of FIFA's six continental confederations against each other, was a last hurrah for this Inter team, and on Saturday they played like a side that was well aware. Goals from Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto'o capped a dominant first half, and Inter weathered a spirited but ultimately fruitless effort from Mazembe in the second to claim the trophy.

It was Inter's third world club title. It won the old Intercontinental Cup in 1964 and 1965, when only the European and South American champions were deemed worthy to compete. FIFA finally expanded the tournament to include the rest of the planet in 2005, but the newcomers failed to break through until this year.

While Inter eased into the final with a 3-0 win over Asian representative Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (South Korea), the Africans shocked Brazil's SC Internacional, 2-0, to become the first club from outside the two power confederations to play for the trophy (while robbing headline writers everywhere of an Inter v. Inter final).

Mazembe, based in D.R. Congo's second largest city of Lubumbashi, may be the reason the 2010 competition ultimately is remembered. Its defeat of CONCACAF champion Pachuca was unexpected, and the subsequent win over the Copa Libertadores holders was historic, marking a significant step toward cementing the Club World Cup's legitimacy.

But the Crows were out of their depth on Saturday against an Inter side missing injured playmaker Wesley Sneijder but determined to conclude its five-year run of excellence with a world championship.

Mazembe could do little but stand and watch as Eto'o lofted a perfect 13th-minute volley over the defense to Pandev, who settled the pass with his left foot before poking a shot past goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba.

Four minutes later it was 2-0. Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiasso fed countryman Javier Zanetti on the right, and the 37-year-old beat his Mazembe pursuer to the endline before cutting a pass back toward the top of the penalty area. Pandev got a touch that settled the ball for Eto'o, who turned a low, smart shot inside the left post.

Eto'o raced toward the Inter bench and was handed two white plastic bags (full of who knows what), which he held aloft in one of the more bizarre goal celebrations ever.

Mazembe, which features a lineup composed almost entirely of Congolese players (Inter did not field a single Italian), came to live in the second half and had a couple of chances to get on the scoreboard. The best came in the 75th, when Dioko Kaluyituka broke free in the Inter penalty area but failed to unleash his shot in time. The 23-year-old midfielder was named the tournament's second-best player (Eto'o won the golden ball).

The Milan club killed off the game in the 85th with a goal from French substitute Jonathan Biabiany.

Inter will launch its effort to resurrect its league campaign on Jan. 6 when it hosts Napoli, and its Champions League defense will continue in February with a rematch against Bayern. It's hard to imagine Benítez and his aging side repeating its 2010 success on either front.

Saturday's game in Abu Dhabi was the culmination for this group of players, and they made no mistake.

Video of Inter's first two goals is below: