TOYOTA, Japan (Reuters) - Brazil’s Corinthians will not be catching stage fright at the Club World Cup, coach Tite said on Tuesday, aware of the weight of expectation from over three million fanatical fans.
The South American champions are hot favourites to beat Egypt’s Al-Ahly in Wednesday’s first semi-final in Japan and reach the final, possibly against Chelsea, on December 16.
“We are excited, overwhelmed to be able to play in this special event the Club World Cup,” Tite told reporters after training in Toyota.
“We want to make the most of the chance. We are thinking of playing in the final. We have the right to dream.”
European teams have won the last five editions of the tournament, Barcelona lifting the trophy in 2009 and 2011, but Corinthians will be backed by thousands of travelling fans.
Chelsea, who became the first holders to be eliminated at the Champions League group stage last week, must beat Mexico’s Monterrey on Thursday to earn a shot at the world title.
“If we perform to our potential then the dream can come true,” added Tite, whose side became the Libertadores Cup’s first unbeaten winners since 1978 this year.
“The prospect of it coming true can sometimes give you shivers and make you feel sick in the stomach. That’s natural but we have to control that.”
Corinthians, winners of the first Club World Cup in 2000, were given a raucous send-off by some 15,000 fans waving banners and setting off fire extinguishers at Sao Paulo’s main airport.
“I‘m conscious three million supporters need to be made happy,” said Tite, whose side’s spirits have not been dampened by the cold weather in snow-sprinkled Toyota.
“They’re not here to put pressure on us. They are here to rejoice. Some supporters have actually left families behind or quit their jobs simply to be here to support us.”
Captain Alessandro said the players had banished thoughts of Chelsea from their minds in order to focus on African champions Ahly.
“We don’t have the luxury of thinking about Chelsea,” the defender said. “Chelsea are one step later. We have a difficult match tomorrow first.”
Ahly coach Hossam El Badry, whose side are still scarred after a stadium riot earlier this year when more than 70 fans died, acknowledged the odds were stacked against them.
“Technically Corinthians are stronger than us,” said El Badry, whose team beat Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 in a blizzard in the quarter-finals at the weekend.
“It will be more difficult this time. But we have overcome many hardships to get here. Corinthians are formidable in attack but we have quality too.”
Writing by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Mark Meadows