- The Colombian forward was River Plate’s top scorer at UAE 2018
- Voted man of the match as River sealed third place
- Kashima Antlers 0-4 River Plate
River Plate ended their FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 campaign with a win, and greeted it with a sigh of relief, some smiles, a few shouts of encouragement, and a tear or two. Though the match for third place was not the game they had wanted to play, they got the job done.
Their bronze medal came on what was Gonzalo Martinez’s farewell appearance for Los Millonarios, an occasion he marked with a brace, the second of them a superb strike.
“He deserves it,” said his team-mate Rafa Santos Borre, the Alibaba Cloud Match Award winner, in conversation with FIFA.com. “He really worked hard to win the fans over and we’re delighted to experience this with him today. He’s signed off in the best possible way. He’s a very important player and we’re going to miss him.”
The Colombian can leave Abu Dhabi content with his contribution, having scored three goals to end the tournament as River’s top scorer: “It’s a shame they haven’t helped us make the final, but I’m happy with what I’ve given to the team.”
The River players found it hard to lift themselves for Saturday’s match. Following their momentous Copa Libertadores win, defeat to Al Ain in the semi-finals came as a huge disappointment. “Especially on a mental level,” said Santos Borre. “We came here to win the lot and we had a huge setback. We just had to pick ourselves up for this match, though, and finish things off in the best possible way. After all, a club of River’s calibre just has to go out on a high note.”
With the consolation prize of third place safely in the bag, River can now embark on a journey they have been dreaming of for the last two weeks. Though the flight will be a long one, they are now going home, to Buenos Aires, to be with their fans and to celebrate the Copa Libertadores win that they sealed in Madrid.
The mere thought of walking into El Monumental with the trophy in their hands has the River players’ eyes lighting up in delight. “It’s going to be really nice,” said the No19. “We’re hoping the fans will bring the same intensity they always do, at our home ground, and with that same euphoria and joy. The stadium will be packed because our fans always give us their support. We can’t wait for it to happen.”
In summing up 2018, Santos Borre takes the positive view: “I’m happy. It’s been a great year. We’ve faced a lot of major challenges and we’ve knocked out some big teams on the way. If you look back at everything we’ve done, it’s been amazing.
“It’s time for us to take a rest now, to enjoy everything we’ve done. We’re ready for some family time, to rest up and get ready for what 2019 has in store.”