Real Madrid rule the world again! Winners, losers & ratings as Vinicius Junior, Fede Valverde & Karim Benzema strike in Club World Cup final

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Vinicius Junior Real Madrid celebrate Club World Cup final
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Vinicius Junior and Fede Valverde scored two goals apiece to lead Real Madrid to a 5-3 win over Al-Hilal in the Club World Cup final on Saturday.

The celebrations weren't over-the-top after the final whistle blew. Real Madrid, having put away Al-Hilal in a high-scoring Club World Cup final, didn't storm the pitch. Instead, it was the standard slew of high-fives and hugs, a reaction more associated with a win over Elche on a rainy midweek in February than the European crown they captured last May.

Still, there was reason for some smiles. Madrid turned in one of their best attacking performances of the season, putting five past Al-Hilal to win their fifth Club World Cup.

Champions of the world does have a nice ring to it.

Vinicius Junior opened the scoring early, capping off some neat interplay with a side footed finish to give Madrid a 1-0 lead. Fede Valverde added a second five minutes later, with Abdullah Al-Mayouf fumbling his relatively tame strike.

Al-Hilal pulled one back after Moussa Marega coasted through the Madrid defence and slipped the ball past Andriy Lunin. There were suggestions that another might come, but Real did just enough to retain a 2-1 lead at half-time.

Karim Benzema quelled any comeback fears with a tap-in 15 minutes after the break. Valverde made it four shortly after, latching on Dani Carvajal's through ball and chipping the keeper to put Madrid out of reach. Al-Hilal stuck around, though, trading goals in a high scoring affair that somehow ended 5-3, with just enough jeopardy to make things interesting.

Much like Chelsea at this tournament a year ago, this was a chance for Real Madrid to hold silverware during a season in which achievements might be in short supply.

Even if the Club World Cup can feel like a dressed-up friendly, grabbing the 100th official trophy in club history was an accomplishment worth savouring.

  1. The Winners
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    The Winners

    Federico Valverde:

    His first goal might have been fortunate - the product of a horrible blunder by the keeper - but Valverde badly needed to see the ball hit the net. The midfielder was evolving into a reliable goalscorer before the World Cup, but dropped off immensely after his time in Qatar. But there were echoes of his old self on Saturday evening. Valverde was elegant on the ball and immensely effective in the final third, bagging a brace while being heavily involved in Madrid's suddenly fluid build up play. Yes, the opposition wasn't of the highest quality, but it might be exactly what Valverde needed.

    Vinicius Junior:

    There was a kind of joy to Vinicius' game on Saturday that hasn't been seen for some time. The winger has been battered with on field mistreatment and rancid racial abuse over the last six weeks. And, not unreasonably, it appeared to be getting to him. But in Morocco, away from the controversy of La Liga, the Brazilian has thrived. He bagged a brace in the final, his third goal of the Club World Cup. There was a real ease to his finishing too, the comfort of a player entirely relaxed and confident in his abilities. He was a delight to watch.

    The Club World Cup:

    Yes, major clubs in the middle of their league campaigns really don't need to jet off to play a far inferior team. But what a game this was. Madrid probably should have scored five, and really shouldn't have conceded three. But, more than anything, that added to the fun. Madrid never really looked in danger of losing the contest; each goal was a product of individual errors rather than Al-Hilal brilliance. Still, Los Blancos were just careless enough to make it all a bit fun. As far as needless games go, this was a fantastic one to watch.

  2. The Losers
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    The Losers

    Antonio Rudiger:

    He wasn't the only Real Madrid player to turn in a poor defensive performance, but Rudiger's wayward play directly contributed to two of Al-Hilal's goals. He was caught out of position on the first, and gave the ball away in the run-up to another. With Militao out and David Alaba working his way back to full fitness, Rudiger is the only fit first-choice centre-back. And his poor spell is something of a concern as Madrid enters a period of must-win contests.

    Luka Modric:

    Was this Modric's last final in a Madrid shirt? The Croatian hasn't looked the same player since the World Cup, with his 37-year-old legs finally showing signs of slowing down. He was, predictably, handed the start against Al-Hilal, as Ancelotti fielded his strongest XI. But he was the weakest of three Madrid midfielders, and with Dani Ceballos lifting the level after he came on, it's easy to wonder how much longer Modric might be a surefire starter.

  3. Real Madrid Ratings: Defence
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    Real Madrid Ratings: Defence

    Andriy Lunin (5/10):

    Conceded three without doing loads wrong. Probably has more grievances with his back four than individual showing. A wayward pass or two didn't help, though.

    Dani Carvajal (6/10):

    Seems to have benefitted from some time off, and turned in a lively performance.

    Antonio Rudiger (5/10):

    Shaky, which isn't very good. Will need to improve in the coming weeks.

    David Alaba (6/10):

    Given problems by the strength of Marega, and should have done better on the forward's goal. Looked more comfortable at left-back.

    Eduardo Camavinga (7/10):

    Good at left-back, even better in central-midfield. A delightful player to watch who will surely only get better. Bellingham who?

  4. Midfield
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    Luka Modric (6/10):

    Uncharacteristically leggy from the Croatian, who is really starting to show his age. This could be his last final in a Madrid shirt.

    Aurelien Tchoaumeni (6/10):

    Fantastic at winning the ball, not as good once he'd actually won it. Seemed to get himself banged up - Ancelotti will hope it's not serious.

    Toni Kroos (7/10):

    Classy, measured, technically sound. A signature Kroos performance, who loves these slower-paced games these days.

  5. Attack
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    Fede Valverde (8/10):

    Must be immensely relieved to have scored twice, even if he benefitted from a fortunate deflection for the first. His best showing of 2023.

    Karim Benzema (7/10):

    Assisted Vinicius' opener, scored Madrid's third. A typically impressive and ruthless showing.

    Vinicius Jr. (8/10):

    A joy to watch. Some lovely little runs and deft faints. Took both of his goals very well, and almost had a third.

  6. Subs & Manager
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    Subs & Manager

    Dani Ceballos (8/10):

    Left out of the XI, and showed why he probably deserved to be in it with a wonderful 30-minute showing.

    Rodrygo (6/10):

    Lively, fun to watch, really should have scored.

    Nacho (6/10):

    An agreeable 20 minutes.

    Marco Asensio (6/10):

    Tried to curl one in, missed.

    Jesus Vallejo (N/A):

    A good run out for a player who probably won't play many more games in a Madrid shirt.

    Carlo Ancelotti (8/10):

    Ancelotti put out his strongest XI, and defensive errors aside, Madrid were excellent. Five goals is nothing to be sniffed at, while Valverde and Vini appeared to be inching towards their best. It's not much of a trophy, but silverware is silverware.