Freedman_jonah
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  • 11:24 AM ET  12.10

I’m a huge fan of the Club World Cup -- at least in concept. It’s a fantasy battle come true to answer the ultimate question: Who's the best team on earth? And FIFA has finally put together the financial muscle to make the CWC stick as an annual event.

Even better, a dream matchup is on track: a final between European champs AC Milan and South American champs Boca Juniors, the two most internationally trophied clubs in the history of the game. The only problem is that pretty much all the so-called “big clubs” in this tournament are limping their way in and are shadows of the teams that won their continents' respective Champions Leagues.

Euro champ AC Milan is back to its usual success in this season’s Champions League, but it hasn’t even won a home game in Serie A yet -- the Rossoneri currently sit in 10th place in the Italian league. 

South American champs Boca Juniors have spiraled since Juan Román Riquelme led them to the Copa Libertadores crown last summer, clearly suffering from the lack of playmaker in the midfield. Without him, Boca was eliminated from contention in the Argentine Apertura race with a week to go and ended up in fourth place -- its worst finish in three years.

CONCACAF champ Pachuca was supposed to be the club from outside the world’s Power Two continents that had a real shot at a major upset in this tournament, but this current incarnation of the defending CONCACAF Champions' Cup winner is a far cry from the team that won two league titles and three international tournaments over an 18-month span. Los Tuzos didn’t even make the playoffs after the Mexican Apertura, then bowed out weakly in Japan to African champions Étoile du Sahel on Sunday. 

Asian champs Urawa Reds are the most popular team in Japan and were supposed to be a huge draw for the local fans at this tournament. But a club that routinely draws 64,000 to its home games could only manage 33,000 in Monday’s quarterfinal with Iran’s Sepahan, a rematch of the Asian Champions League final. Maybe Japanese fans were disenchanted with the Reds -- after going wire-to-wire as the frontrunner in the J-League the entire season, they coughed up the title on the last day, losing their final must-win game to relegation-bound Yokohama FC.

Again, the Club World Cup is a great idea. But once the dust settles after Sunday’s final, the champion will get to lay claim to what? The Best of the Fallen Champs. Not exactly what we all had in mind.

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