ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Inter Milan insists it won't take the opposition lightly Saturday when it plays Congo's TP Mazembe, the first African team to reach to final of the Club World Cup.
Nerazzurri coach Rafa Benitez, his team just seventh in Italy's Serie A, is under pressure after Inter president Massimo Moratti suggested anything short of the Club World Cup title would be unacceptable.
"It's an honor and it's something very challenging for us," Benitez said. "This is very important for us because it would be part of club history."
Mazembe upset Copa Libertadores champion Internacional of Brazil 2-0 Tuesday, while Inter romped over South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa 3-0 the following day.
"Playing against the best African team is a reason to be proud: it's a huge moment for Africa but for Inter too, because this will be remembered as a historic Club World Cup final," Benitez said. "How do I feel? We're about to play a final that decides who is the best team in the world — we're going to go for it. It's the last game of 2010, and I expect to play and win lots more in 2011."
Inter, which won a prior incarnation of the competition in 1964 and 1965, has been boosted this week by the return of several injured starters, including defender Cristian Chivu, forward Diego Milito and goalkeeper Julio Cesar. But playmaker Wesley Sneijder limped off in the semifinal with a leg injury and won't play in the final.
"It's a great final and great opportunity to bring Inter back to the top," Inter captain Javier Zanetti said. "In the game, there are no favorites, especially these days. All the matches are well balanced. We are at the same level. It would be mistake not to think this way."
Fresh from its historic victory, Mazembe is not lacking for supporters.
"To have TP Mazembe in the final against the famous football team Internazionale Milano, the reigning European club champion, is a very big event," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said.
Benitez managed Liverpool to the 2005 final, where it lost to Brazil's Sao Paulo 1-0. Given the big names in Inter, this year's final would appear to be a mismatch.
"We have to put on a good match and represent the African continent," Mazembe coach Lamine N'Diaye said. "No matter the result is, I'll be proud of these players for their achievements and performance and by the fact they have shown for the past four months beautiful results."