YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Chelsea travel 6,000 miles to Japan next week seeking solace at the Club World Cup and a trophy to quell the growing discontent surrounding the appointment of interim coach Rafael Benitez.
In an ironic twist that will not be lost on Chelsea fans unhappy at Benitez’s arrival, FIFA will implement goal-line technology for the first time in an official tournament.
Benitez’s Liverpool beat the London side in the 2005 Champions League semi-finals through Luis Garcia’s “ghost” goal.
“This is a kind of revolution,” FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told reporters on the eve of Thursday’s opening game between Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima and New Zealand amateurs Auckland City.
“If you have the chance to touch perfection why wouldn’t you try?”
Two systems, Hawk-Eye - widely used in cricket and tennis - and GoalRef, which uses a microchip in the ball and low magnetic waves around the goal, will be used in Toyota and Yokohama.
“It’s an organic thing,” Hawk-Eye’s managing director Steve Carter told Reuters.
“Every time there is a controversial decision in football, particularly at the elite level, pressure organically grows on the governing body and we’re seeing the result of that.”
Two years of testing and implementation at the Japan tournament have cost FIFA $2 million, money Valcke said was well spent.
Valcke pointed to Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany at the 2010 World Cup, which crossed the line but was not given, as an example of the errors FIFA were determined to eliminate.
”You can have the greatest World Cup but what happened between Germany and England became the one topic,“ he said. ”It wasn’t two centimetres (over the line), it was clearly in.
“The World Cup is the biggest sports event in the world. People see that and wonder how the referee didn’t see it. That’s the decision we made after the 2010 World Cup.”
Often seen by European clubs as a quest for fool’s gold, Chelsea’s first appearance in the Club World Cup will come as a welcome distraction to Benitez and his players.
Their quest to lift the trophy and buy some breathing space after owner Roman Abramovich fired Roberto Di Matteo and replaced him with Benitez will be a tough one.
Their confidence fragile having failed to record a victory in their first three matches under Benitez, Libertadores Cup holders Corinthians will be a real threat.
The European and South American champions join the competition at the semi-final stage and are expected to meet in the final in Yokohama on December 16.
”Corinthians have some great players,“ misfiring Chelsea striker Fernando Torres told fifa.com. ”They have great players, as always with the Brazilian teams.
”Maybe if they play against Chelsea, everyone in the world is watching and they have the chance to come to Europe. It’s a great scenario for them and for us it’s really dangerous.
”It’s one of the main targets we should have this season,“ added Torres. ”We are not going to play this tournament again if we don’t win the Champions League.
“It’s even more difficult to win these games because everyone knows South American teams take it much more seriously than European teams. Hopefully that’s not the case this time.”
Egypt’s Al-Ahly, whose players will wear black armbands in memory of the 74 fans who perished in a riot following a game in February, play the winners of Thursday’s curtain raiser.
Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea meet Mexicans Monterrey in the second quarter-final before Al-Ahly’s game, both matches taking place in Toyota on Sunday.
Benitez, whose side face Ulsan or Monterrey in Yokohama on December 13, can ill afford to slip up as it would be no surprise to see Abramovich buying himself a new manager for Christmas.
Editing by Peter Rutherford