Football Features

“Captain. Leader. Legend.” – Clever play from Cesar Azpilicueta helps Chelsea beat Palmeiras to win their first Club World Cup

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:39, 12 February 2022


Cesar Azpilicueta played a key role as Chelsea overcame Palmeiras to win their first-ever FIFA Club World Cup.

In his tenth year and ninth season with the club, the Chelsea captain completed his set of winners medals won with the Blues when he lifted the Club World Cup for the first time in Chelsea’s history.


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The 21st trophy win during the Roman Abramovich era, the Club World Cup had been the only one to elude the Russian owner due to Chelsea’s failure in 2012, also against a Brazilian side when they lost 1-0 to Corinthians. Azpilicueta is the last surviving squad member from that team, and for him to complete the redemption today was quite special.

In truth, tonight looked as though it could be heading the same way as 2012, as Palmeiras fought back so well after Romelu Lukaku had given Chelsea an early lead. The Brazilian side equalised and looked to be taking things to a penalty shoot-out where anything could happen.

But a loose ball in the box was seized upon by Cesar Azpilicueta, whose flying snap-kick was sent straight into the outstretched hand of Palmeiras defender Luan. It was a ridiculously harsh decision made by VAR, but only possible thanks to Azpilicueta’s determination.

Azpilicueta then held the ball, absorbing all of the aggro and gamesmanship from the Palmeiras players as they tried to put him off. It looked like the Chelsea captain had pulled rank and was going for the hero-shot, John Terry in Moscow style.


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But Cesar Azpilicueta is no John Terry, and when the players all cleared and it was time for the penalty to be taken, the Chelsea skipper passed the ball to Kai Havertz who proceeded to bury the ball to gift Chelsea the win, the match and the trophy.

“I think he’s taken some notes from Jorginho on this one,” said Eni Aluko, referring to the way Havertz started his run-up at speed only to slow down and send Weverton diving in his goal, allowing Havetz to slot it into the other side of the net with no problems.

Asked whether he was nervous, the German said “I was, I was, I have to be honest. I’m the third-choice penalty taker – Jordi and Rom, they both were out. Hakim asked to me to take. Everybody said to do it.”

That Havertz was able to take such a composed penalty under such pressure has to owe something to Azpilicueta. Palmeiras’ gamesmanship would have absolutely played on the mind and nerves of the young German, but Azpilicueta’s holding of the ball, which was such a simple but effective gesture, allowed Havertz to calmly prepare himself for the penalty and simply step up and take it.

“The other players gave me trust,” said Havertz. And in response to that trust, Kai Havertz gave Cesar Azpilicueta and Chelsea the Club World Cup; the missing piece of their silverware cabinet. After the match, Azpilicueta was given the Fair Play Award for the Club World Cup, which perhaps felt like the most fitting reward for a servant who has always put club success ahead of individual honour.

Captain. Leader. Legend.

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