Real Madrid target Exequiel Palacios disappears without trace in Club World Cup loss

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The eyes of Real Madrid supporters – and the club’s scouts – would have been trained on emerging River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios in Tuesday’s Club World Cup semi-final against underdogs Al Ain.

But these observers would have come away unimpressed by the new Argentina cap’s instantly forgettable display during a historic penalty shootout win for the ecstatic hosts at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Here, Sport360 reviews the 20-year-old’s mundane performance:


River Plate were red-hot favourites in the UAE to secure the prize of a showpiece meeting with holders Madrid, but an own goal from centre-back Javier Pinola got them off to the worst-possible start.

Colombian forward Rafael Santos Borre soon flicked in on the line and calmly dispatched a one-on-one to make it 2-1 to the visitors by 16 minutes.

Al Ain, however, would rebound positively from this concession and deserved to level up on 51 minutes when Porto-target Caio, characteristically, cut inside to find the bottom corner and make it 2-2.

Atlanta United-bound Gonzalo Martinez would hit the crossbar with a spot-kick in normal time, prior to substitute Enzo Perez critically erring in the shootout.


Putting it on the line – Head coach Marcelo Gallardo substituted off all four of his centre midfielders in this last-four tie.

For a demure Palacios, his nagging ankle knock clearly limited the effectiveness of the usual box-to-box battler.

Gamely, he made it into the second half. But by 55 minutes, his unsatisfactory race was run.


Much to learn – When your physical output is lessened, out of your control, a top-class performer can still influence a game with their mastery of the basics.

This was not the case for River rookie, Palacios. One first-half moment typified his ineffective display.

His reading of the game saw a loose pass in midfield cut out, but by the time he bore down on the retreating defence, concrete boots miscontrolled the ball to safety.


30th min POOR CONTROL: Palacios claims the ball in a promising position, but then proceeds to fumble it forward when trying to run at pace.

55th min SUBSTITUTED: Gallardo has seen enough from the struggling starlet and the board comes up with his number. A consequential decision, with replacement Perez set to play a decisive role in the shootout.


Palacios is considered to be the latest jewel mined from River’s incredible academy.

But on this performance, he still requires plenty of shining. Talk of a January switch to Madrid might have come too soon, something he appeared to acknowledge in a pre-match interview.

RATING: 5/10

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