Chelsea are world champions for the first time after a 2-1 victory over Palmeiras in extra-time of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021 final on Saturday.
A total of 32,871 fans at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium witnessed the reigning UEFA Champions League holders make history on a memorable night in the UAE capital.
Chelsea were handed the prestigious trophy by FIFA president Gianni Infantino after Kai Havertz - whose winner in the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League final booked his side's place in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021 - converted an 118th-minute penalty deep into extra-time. Goals from first Romelu Lukaku and then Raphael Veiga saw the game finish 1-1 in normal time, setting the stage for Havertz to become the hero as the curtain came down on a thrilling fortnight of football in dramatic circumstances.
Infantino hailed the UAE for delivering such a successful event, saying, "The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021 in Abu Dhabi has been a great football event with exciting matches and a fantastic atmosphere. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the United Arab Emirates Football Association, the Abu Dhabi Sport Council and all the local authorities for having hosted this tournament in a very professional way. I would like to leave a final word of appreciation to the volunteers whose contributions are always crucial for the success of a competition."
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, said, "Abu Dhabi has once again proven its status as a global leader and the best destination in the world for hosting major international sporting events. Our beloved city welcomed visitors from around the world, including Brazil, England, Mexico and, of course, other Arab countries. I’m sure they will all leave with a very positive impression of our city and country, thanks to their experiences of sharing this memorable event with the residents of the UAE."
Chelsea are only the third English side to win the FIFA Club World Cup and, having etched his team's name in the history books, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who only arrived in Abu Dhabi last night, said, "They were a tough opponent, and it was a fantastic victory. It's a moment to enjoy after the hard work and the sacrifice that we put into this game. The atmosphere was fantastic, and it felt like an away game. They had a huge crowd, and the crowd was amazing. It was beautiful to play this game, it was a huge challenge, and we didn't expect anything else."
Alibaba Cloud Match Award winner Antonio Rüdiger added, "It's very important to win this trophy as you have to come a long way to win the Champions League and then win the Club World Cup."
Palmeiras coach Abel Ferreira said, "We've done a tremendous job [during the tournament]. Our preparation was fantastic and I'm really proud of my players. [The Palmeiras support] was fantastic. We're 15 hours away from our country but we made it clear how big our club is. We really wanted to win and share this happiness with our supporters. I'm bleeding inside, but I will forbid my players from not celebrating second-place. I will obligate them to celebrate because this was an incredible opponent."
The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021 has seen thousands of people safely travel to Abu Dhabi from all over the world to enjoy the past 10 days of action, further fortifying the emirate's reputation as a world-class international sports hub.
UAE resident Alex was delighted for the chance to see his side lift the trophy in the flesh and said, "The tournament has been a great opportunity for us Chelsea fans who haven't been able to get back to Stamford Bridge for two years. The organisation has been unbelievable, especially being able to drive right next to the stadium with free parking and go straight into the ground. It's been great."
Although the result didn't go her team's way, Palmeiras fan Erika, who made the journey to Abu Dhabi from Buenos Aires via Sao Paulo with her parents, is already looking forward to returning to the emirate. "It's an amazing city," she said. "We're in love with it!"
In Saturday's first game, Al Ahly beat nine-man Al Hilal 4-0 at the Al Nahyan Stadium, clinching a second successive third-place finish at the FIFA Club World Cup for the Cairo club. An eventful first half saw Yasser Ibrahim score twice and Ahmed Abdel Kader add a third for the Egyptians, while Al Hilal pair Matheus Pereira and Mohamed Kanno were both shown red cards inside the opening 30 minutes. Amr El Solia's strike added further gloss in the second period.
After securing third, Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane said, "We're happy to receive a medal on behalf of the Arab community, on behalf of Al Ahly Sporting Club, and to receive the medal for Egypt and for Africa. Alhamdulillah, we won the match. If we come for a third time, maybe we will change the medal!"
Two-goal hero Ibrahim added, "Congratulations to our fans who were there with us with their spirit. We're very grateful for the bronze medal and we're looking forward to earning more trophies in the future. Al Hilal, the Asian champions, were worthy opponents but we prepared and played well."
Fans of both teams turned out in large numbers to see the CAF Champions League winners edge out their AFC Champions League holding rivals in the battle for bronze. Despite ending up on the losing side, Al Hilal supporter Ahmed praised the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021 hosts for representing the Arab world so successfully and said, "I'd like to thank the city of Abu Dhabi from the bottom of my heart for the great efforts to make this tournament so successful and for being the pride of the Arab nations."