Corinthians set to raise Club World Cup decibels
Legions of Corinthians fans are set to raise the roof at the Club World Cup in Japan on Wednesday when the Brazilian giants line up in the semi-finals against Egypt's Al Ahly.
The intercontinental showpiece has been notable so far for the lack of spectators entering the turnstiles, with only 25,000 watching the opening match at the 68,000-capacity Yokohama International Stadium last week.
That figure was all the more disappointing because it featured the J-League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima, representing the host nation, although it did also consist of part-timers Auckland City.
Toyota Stadium, capacity 36,000, appeared marginally less bare with around 20,000 watching Sunday's quarter-final between Ulsan Hyundai and Monterrey, and just over 27,000 taking in Hiroshima's loss to Egypt's Al Ahly as the snow fell.
But the South American champions' opening match is expected to give attendances a much needed boost, with around 20,000 noisy supporters making the trip from Sao Paulo to see their idols, according to the club's website.
It follows dramatic scenes at Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport last week when some 15,000 fans turned up to wave off the Copa Libertadores winners, with some reportedly setting off fire extinguishers and blocking roads.
"We are feeling a very strong and heavy responsibility to the supporters," Tite, the coach, told a news conference in Toyota.
"Some supporters have left their families behind or quit their jobs just simply to be here and support Corinthians.
"The supporters have come so far but they are not here to put pressure on us. They are here to encourage us. They are here to rejoice and be happy.
"They should be appreciated because they can become part of the power of the team."
Corinthians take on seven-time African champions Al Ahly in Toyota for a place in Sunday's final where they may face European champions Chelsea.
Al Ahly were forced to play the home legs of their recent successful CAF Champions League campaign behind closed doors because of security concerns after February's Port Said stadium disaster in which more than 70 fans died.
However, coach Hossam El-Badry said his players would not be intimidated by the legions of boisterous Brazilian fans.
"It doesn't really matter how many people are watching us," he said. "We are motivated for this match. Our objective is to win."
The Brazilian Tite said Corinthians, who have been in Japan training and acclimatising to the cold conditions for a week, were relishing the opportunity to be named the best club side in the world.
"To be able to play in the Club World Cup is a precious opportunity for us," the 51-year-old said.
"If we perform our responsibilities then our dreams will come true."
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