Tigres finally suffered its first Club World Cup loss in franchise history. And it came to the hands of German powerhouse Bayern Munich in the tournament final, by a score of 1-0. Despite looking at least a couple levels inferior than that of the German club and failing to create any sense of danger on Neuer’s goal, the Monterrey-based team left their mark on the tournament as well as the history books.
After a tough start to the tournament by falling behind to South Korean club Ulsan Hyundai, the situation was uncertain for Ferretti and his pupils, as they knew how disappointing a one-and-done would be after how hard they fought to get there. They didn’t have to wait long though, as they began to pressure the Asian club, quickly creating opportunities and capitalizing, with Gignac scoring twice within the final seven minutes of the first half. They never looked back from there. Then, in the semifinal against what appeared to be a gritty and tough Palmeiras, Tigres tied the Brazilian squad’s hands behind their backs and figured out a way to get on the board, through the sheer genius and quality of striker Gignac, who proved he has ice in his veins with the penalty kick. And just like that, in their first ever Club WC, Tigres became the first ever CONCACAF club to reach the tournament final.
Fastforward to today. In spite of many Mexican media announcers’ disappointment with Tigres performance, Ferretti’s gameplan didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I believe any other Liga MX club would’ve done something very similar going up against the likes of a Bayern Munich. Tigres came out pressing up high and really sticky on the Bayern attackers. After about the first 15-20 minutes, that pressure began to slowly calm, and Ferretti retreated his troops to play mostly in their own half for the rest of the match. Sounds like a reasonable thing to do against one of the fastest and most skilled teams in the world. And Salcedo, Reyes, and company played it out to perfection, as they didn’t allow Bayern to get comfortable on the pitch in the first half, and especially before the goal.
Other than ‘Chaka’ Rodríguez and Luis Quiñones both looking nervous to start the game, the rest of the squad appeared ready and focused. Offensively, Carlos González struggled to get possession of the ball. Aquino and Quiñones didn’t have the space they’re used to. Gignac, as predicted, was the bright spot. Despite being unable to attempt a shot or create any danger, he was the team’s rescue boat, and everytime he got the ball, he found an open teammate or dribbled his way out of trouble, securing ball possession for his club. He looked like he hasn’t missed a beat since leaving Europe.
In the end, Bayern were just too much. Davies, Coman, Gnabry, Sané, and those bad boys proved their greatness. They looked lightning fast, running past defenders on both flanks, constantly sending in dangerous crosses, and testing Nahuel every chance they got. The few times Tigres attempted to go forward and create something, Bayern had wide-open lanes and created dangerous counter-attacks at will. The reality is that it just wasn’t smart for Tuca to open up and play man-to-man. The tactics he used were the ones that gave Tigres the better chance, in all honesty, and any fan would like that from their coach.
Had a couple balls and bounces gone Tigres’ way, they could’ve somehow found a way to take a lead. But all in all, Bayern were by far the better team, dominating ball possession (something Tigres aren’t used to from rivals), and creating all the opportunities (literally). Tigres didn’t create a single dangerous approach on Neuer’s goal. But Ferretti stayed true to his style and gameplan, and his squad gave it a valiant effort. Nothing else to say than kudos to Hans-Dieter Flick and his squad for confirming their superiority, finding a way to take the lead, and deal with the match. Despite the result and some Mexican media trying to minimize the Monterrey-based club due to this performance, there is only one truth: Tigres are the first and only CONCACAF club so far to have reached a Club WC final and are undoubtedly one of the top 4 clubs in Liga MX today (and have been for quite some time now). Time will tell if another Liga MX club can do this again.