South American will could save Benitez from sack

ABU DHABI - South American commitment to the club world title could help beleaguered coach Rafa Benitez keep his job at Inter Milan.

"There are so many South Americans in our team that the will (to win) is there," Colombian defender Ivan Cordoba said at the Club World Cup on Saturday.

South American sides traditionally showed more interest than their European rivals in the former Intercontinental Cup and that perception remains with the competition in the current format.

Cordoba, speaking at a news conference, compared the tournament with a World Cup for national sides and said: "For me this is a dream. As I entered the stadium I remembered being at France 98."

Benitez has been under intense pressure since replacing treble-winning coach Jose Mourinho at Inter this season and the Club World Cup is seen as make-or-break time for the Spaniard.

Club president Massimo Moratti suggested after a 3-0 defeat at Werder Bremen in the Champions League on Tuesday that he would review Benitez's position after the tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Inter have lost seven matches this season, the same number of defeats suffered by Mourinho's team in the whole of last season, and were 10 points behind leaders AC Milan in Serie A after 15 matches before leaving for Abu Dhabi.

MILITO DOUBT

Benitez could field a majority of South Americans in Inter's opening match, a semi-final on Wednesday against the winners of Saturday night's quarter-final between Asian champions Seongnam and hosts al-Wahda.

Argentina striker Diego Milito, whose goals secured Inter's three trophies last season, is hoping to recover from injury to be available for the semi-final.

The final of the Club World Cup, now also contested by the champions of Africa, Asia, the CONCACAF region and Oceania, has continued to be contested every year by the European and South American sides.

"All the matches are finals at a World Cup, they are played like that. The first is a final which, with a good result, can take you to the grand final," said Cordoba, who attended the news conference with Benitez.

The Colombia centre-back, saying Inter had overcome problems last season too and would attempt to overcome them with good football, added: "You don't forget from one day to the next how to play."

Benitez refused to be drawn into a discussion of his job amid media reports in Europe that Inter were already looking for a replacement with former AS Roma coach Luciano Spalletti, now with Zenit St Petersburg in Russia, said to be the favourite.

South American champions Internacional of Brazil are favourites to beat Africa's TP Mazembe of DR Congo on Tuesday and reach a potential final with Inter.


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