Vazquez was certain Ronaldo would score in Club World Cup final

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Keeping the faith: Vazquez and Ronaldo.

Lucas Vazquez revealed after Real Madrid‘s Club World Cup success that he knew Cristiano Ronaldo would score in the final against Gremio.

Portugal forward Ronaldo, this year voted Best FIFA Men’s Player and winner of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award for a fifth time, got the only goal of the game after 53 minutes with a superb free-kick.

Substitute Vazquez told his club’s official website after the Abu Dhabi success: “Before the game, I told Cristiano I was sure he was going to score and that’s why he ran to me for the celebration.

“We’re thrilled. It’s a team success and I hope we can improve on it in 2018.”

The forward’s sentiments were echoed by his team-mates after Real retained their title, making sure of a fifth trophy of 2017 following success in LaLiga, the Champions League, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

France defender Raphael Varane added: “It has not been easy. You have to congratulate the whole team. Winning five titles is very complicated.

“We know how difficult it is to win these finals, we are very happy. We know this team has talent and we will continue to fight to win more titles.”

Germany international Toni Kroos said: “This year has been a long journey, but we had a challenge and knew we could do this.”

For fellow midfielder Casemiro, the latest success was a dream come true.

The Brazilian explained: “When I arrived at Real Madrid I was hungry to win titles. That was my dream, I wanted to write my story in the best possible fashion – and I’ve won 10 already.

“I’m motivated to keep working hard and I hope there are many more to come. I’d sign up now to finish every year just like this. It’s been a wonderful year.”

“We had to really dig deep to win this Club World Cup. We put in a complete performance and we have to congratulate the players because we were up against a good team in Gremio, who I know well from Brazil.

“I never imagined I’d win so many trophies when I came to Real Madrid but I did dream about it, so that’s why it’s such an honour to be part of this team.

“We’ve had a wonderful year and the dressing room has been a happy place. We need to keep making history and enjoying this team because we’ve got a great squad.”

Acknowledging the contribution of Ronaldo, the 25-year-old added: “It’s a young but experienced group, with the best player in the world as well. We have to keep enjoying ourselves.”

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Zidane deserves plaudits and time in job to rebuild Real Madrid again

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Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo simply cannot help themselves.

Yet another trophy and gala moment was earned on Saturday night as the Portugal superstar’s impudent free-kick found a gap in the Gremio wall and sent the partisan Zayed Sports City crowd into rapture.

With it, European football’s defining side swept to successive Club World Cup triumphs and earned a fifth piece of silverware in 2017 – the most in its storied history.

Reaching new landmarks for Madrid is no simple task. Often forgotten in this equation is Zinedine Zidane, whose made incredible achievements look effortless there as a player and now head coach.

For a man of such majestic gifts on the ball, it is remarkable how his greatest talent in the dugout – although he is rarely there, his focus on the touchline being as sharp as his suit – is simplifying the game. Whether in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation, he has unpicked the latent gifts of emerging Spain superstar Isco and kept the evergreen Ronaldo in condition to claim a fifth Ballon d’Or.

Yet this stoic approach also counts against him as the vultures hover in the midst of a stuttering title defence in La Liga. Talk throughout Madrid’s hyped stint in the Emirates has gravitated towards this Saturday’s latest edition of El Clasico when Barcelona visit the Spanish capital, and the long-term repercussions of a negative result.

Who else but Ronaldo scored Real’s winner.

The CWC can seem like an afterthought for sides on the old continent. But victory in it adds to the gargantuan weight of success and must hand Zidane that rarest of gifts under erratic president Florentino Perez – time.

Time for relative failure. Time to rebuild and time to secure even more silverware in the seasons ahead.

Criticism for predictable tactics, a lack of nuance and continued loyalty to misfiring French striker Karim Benzema – booed off in successive scoreless appearances in Abu Dhabi – have been present. Yet it is churlish to believe Zidane has held a titular position during this glorious spell in Madrid’s history.

His placid demeanour can raise ire, especially in contrast to the frenetic Pep Guardiola or dramatic Jose Mourinho.

It remained in the Emirates as the CWC enjoyed a successful return to the UAE for the first time in seven years.

Los Blancos held off a spirited Al Jazira in the semi-finals and then kept charged Copa Libertadores holders Gremio on a tight leash at a sold-out and electric Zayed Sports City.

No panic, no fuss. Zidane calmly urged his celebrated players on, the only visible frustration coming from poor control by Spain right-back Dani Carvajal in the final throes against the Brazilians.

The warmth afforded to him by each one on the pitch in the aftermath of the final whistle spoke volumes. Icons such as Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos are not easily impressed – the eight trophies won in two years under their current supremo are obviously cherished by them.

Madrid now head home to face the impending possibility of a 12-point deficit to hated domestic rivals. Even if this is their fate, Zidane’s destiny should tie him to Santiago Bernabeu for many years to come.

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Real Madrid player ratings: Modric gets an 8 but how did Ronaldo fare?

Matt Jones 16/12/2017
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Real Madrid secured their third Club World Cup triumph on Saturday night.

After clinching their record-equalling third Club World Cup trophy on Saturday night following a 1-0 victory over Gremio in Abu Dhabi, here’s how Real Madrid‘s stars rated.

Keylor Navas – 6

He might have expected to have busier nights in a final, but the keeper was presented with nothing to trouble him, other than a few routine catches.

Dani Carvajal – 7

A rock on the right for Real, the marauding full-back offered plenty going forward and came closest to breaking the first-half deadlock, a perfectly planted volley that needed clearing on the line

Raphael Varane – 6

Calm and composed alongside his captain. Went on one mazy run in the opening period but failed to produce a finish when working himself into space.

Sergio Ramos – 6

Little to do for the Real skipper other than lift the Club World Cup trophy at the final whistle. Marshalled Lucas Barrios well, forcing him off in the second after an ineffective performance.

Marcelo – 7

Was a ball of energy down the left flank, busily offering himself as an outlet going forward. Kept Gremio’s lively wingers under control.

Luka Modric – 8

The crafty Croat was his usual bundle of creativity, probing any gaps in the Gremio half. Flashed a fierce left-footed drive inches wide and pulled the strings.

Casemiro – 7

The tigerish midfielder was typically dominant, breaking up anything that resembled an attack from Gremio. Kept wonderkid Luan in check as Gremio failed to flow.

Toni Kroos – 7

The German was predictably efficient as he patrolled the area in front of defence and dictated play along with Modric. His first action at the tournament and he was commanding.

Isco – 7

Floated effortlessly across the pitch as he looked for holes in the opposition defence. Started ahead of Gareth Bale and is now a mainstay of Zinedine Zidane’s starting teams.

Karim Benzema – 6

Has his critics but the Frenchman did little wrong here with a solid performance. Would have had a deserved assist but for being wrong called offside when teeing up Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 8

Came into the tournament on the back of a fifth Ballon d’Or, seeing him go level with Lionel Messi, but his crucial goal sees him top the Club World Cup all-time scoring charts.

Subs:

Lucas Vazquez –  6

Little time to make an impact but did his work diligently. Lucky not to get booked late on for an unsporting dive attempting to win Real a penalty.

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Ronaldo (L) curls the ball over the Gremio wall to score from a free-kick during their FIFA Club World Cup 2017 final football match at Zayed Sports City Stadium in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi on December 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Giuseppe CACACE        (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Ronaldo, who else, netted Real’s second-half winner.

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