The 2016 Club World Cup final on Sunday has the air of a foregone conclusion and with good reason.
Real Madrid are unbeaten in all competitions this season, are the European champions and boast within their ranks the reigning Ballon d’Or winner in Cristiano Ronaldo.
Having made history by becoming the first Asian team to reach the competition’s final, Kashima Antlers won’t want to crash out of the encounter with a whimper.
However, if they are going to pull off one of the biggest upsets in football in recent times, they’ll need their best players to step up to the plate.
Here’s a look at three of their danger men.
If Kashima are going to get on the scoresheet on Sunday, odds are that Mu Kanazaki will have something to do with it. The 27-year-old striker is the Japanese side’s most lethal attacker.
Kanazaki honed his technique playing futsal and has plied his trade at Nuremberg and Portimonense in the past. Known for his strength and pace, Kashima will be relying on their premier striker to hit the back of the net.
The Japanese is also strong in the air and comfortable with both feet. He has registered 15 goals in each of his two seasons with Kashima Antlers and scored in their opening two fixtures of the 2016 Club World Cup before providing an assist in the semi-finals.
Gaku Shibasaki is the team’s orchestrator in midfield. The Japanese international has good vision and a wide range of passes in his repertoire.
The 24-year-old hasn’t quite shone in this year’s tournament but only needs a moment to make a telling contribution. Kashima Antlers will be hoping he’s saved once such moment for the final.
If Kashima are going to have any hope against Real Madrid’s midfield, they will need Ryota Nagaki to be at his hard-working best and cover every blade of grass during the final.
The defensive midfielder set up the equaliser in their opening game against Auckland City. He is a driving force from midfielder and will be vital to the team in an effort to keep Madrid at bay on Sunday.