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World Football Challenge

World Football Challenge

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Swapping shirts after the shrill whistle, Inter Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Club America’s Aquivaldo Mosquero embraced at the end of the game.

Or so they thought.One-one may be acceptable in the confines of the San Siro in Italy or at the Estadio Azteca, but not at Stanford Stadium.Inter star Zlatan Ibrahimovic battles with Club America's Juan Carlos Silva to get to a loose ball.Blame it on an insatiable American hunger to always declare a winner — evidenced by quadruple overtimes in college football to penalty shootouts in the NHL.

Whatever the reason, confused players were forced to return shirts to their rightful owners and end the match in a penalty shoot-out, which America won 5-4.Stanford Stadium hosted a different kind of “football” on Saturday, with Inter Milan and Club America playing in the inaugural match of the World Football Challenge, a four-team, round-robin soccer tournament taking part in stadiums across the U.S.Botched jersey exchange aside, Saturday’s Americanized approach to the world game was a victory for U.S.


While organizers may have been overambitious in attempting to fill a 50,000-seat arena, the 31,026 fans who attended were treated to an entertaining match of two goals, two red cards and two-footed tackles.

America’s fans were very much at the center of it.

Armed with drums, yellow smoke bombs and vuvuzelas — FIFA’s favorite horns — they cheered from the first whistle to the final stroke of the ball, which saw defender Oscar Rojas neatly tuck America’s final penalty in the right upper-v to claim the game for the Mexican side.But it was Inter who started the match the brighter of the two sides.The Serie A champions took the field in a 4-5-1 formation, with new signing Diego Milito, not star Zlatan Ibrahimovic spearheading the attack.

Getting the better of possession in the opening minutes, Inter carved out the first chances with Milito warming the hands of America keeper Armando Navarette and Inter winger Ricardo Queresma blazing selfishly over the bar when put through to cross.Inter’s mercurial manager Jose Mourinho traded in his pants and blazer for a more relaxed tracksuit, but patrolled the sidelines with the same gusto.

He looked on as America’s Salvador Cabanas tried a speculative overhead kick in the 18th minute, the Mexican club’s first real chance.But even the “Special One” couldn’t explain Cabanas’s miss in the 28th minute.

After good exchange with fellow forward Enrique Esqueda, Cabanas inexplicably mis-hit a first-time shot wide with the goal at his mercy.It would be the best chance for either team in the half, with the first 45 minutes ending in a nil-nil deadlock.With plenty of changes at half for either team, the game picked up with America surprisingly breaking the deadlock 10 minutes after the break.

Juan Carlos Silva, a substitute, managed to wiggle free of his marker on a corner kick, letting loose a full volley into the back of the net.The goal provided the spark the game would need.

Inter awoke, unleashing star forward Ibrahimovic on the match.Inter found the breakthrough soon after, after good work from Mario Balotelli and Patrick Vieira led to a corner kick.

The ensuing corner kick was launched to the far post, where Inter’s unmarked Ivan Cordoba headed home from close range.Again knotted, the game began to get a bit messy, with a string of fouls and yellow cards issued to both sides.

But even with the game’s growing grittiness, Esqueda’s red card in the 81st was unexpected.Chasing a 50-50 ball played over the top, Esqueda, with foot raised, caught Inter goalie Vid Belec in the face, giving the referee no choice but to send the America player to the showers.

Needless to say, Club America’s fans and coach, Jesus Ramirez, were incensed.Parity was returned eight minutes later.In a seeming make-up call from the referee, Inter’s Joel Obi was sent off for a studs-raised challenge on Oscar Rojas, forcing both sides to the end the game with 10 men.

Neither side could find the winner, and when the final whistle sounded, players began the customary exchange of shirts, unaware of the penalty kick finale.Even a young woman had no idea the game still had life, prancing onto the field to hug Ibrahimovic and a few other players before being escorted off.But with order finally restored, America’s players stepped up and slotted home their penalties with ease, with Inter’s Vieira proving the whole miss after firing high.

With the game on the line, Oscar Rojas ended the day and stepped to the spot, shooting smiles onto the faces of the raucous Club America fans.***Following the win over Inter Milan on penalty kicks, Club America’s coach Jesus Ramirez was pleased with his side’s performance against the Serie A champions.“I am very happy with our team,” he said through a Spanish translator.

“We are coming out from a strong season.

We haven’t played a lot, but I am impressed with how they played today.America, already three games into their preseason, take on A.C.

Milan on Wednesday in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome and Chelsea at Texas’s new Cowboy Stadium on Sunday.On the losing side, Inter Milan’s assistant Beppe Baresi was barraged by transfer talk surrounding the team.

But he remained focus on the team’s preseason trajectories.“It’s been a good week and a very busy game with training,” he said through an Italian translator.

“We’re happy with how the game went and how there were no injuries.”Inter play Chelsea Tuesday at the Rose Bowl and conclude their North American tour on Sunday at Foxborough, Massachusetts against Serie A rival, A.C.

Milan.Chris Fitzgerald contributed to this story.
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