Despite having had several attempts on goal, including a Jesus Gallardo effort that hit the post, Monterrey simply could not find the net in the early stages of their opening fixture at the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019™ against an Al Sadd side intent on denying them space to operate in. That all changed in the 23rd minute, however, when Leonel Vangioni received the ball around 30 yards from goal and unleashed a fierce left-footed drive that flew into the top corner off the upright.
“To be honest it was incredible,” said ‘Piri’ Vangioni, smiling when asked about his goal after leaving the changing room. “I still can’t believe the ball went in where it did.” His strike paved the way for Monterrey to dominate the match until the closing stages, even if an Al Sadd double set up a nervy finale. Ultimately though, Los Rayados earned a 3-2 triumph to book their place in the semi-finals, where they will face Liverpool on Wednesday.
As impressive as Vangioni’s effort was, he insists it was not the result of work on the training pitch: “I had the confidence to take the shot, so I hit it and thankfully it went in. It’s not something I practice though.” Nevertheless, he has previous experience when it comes to long-range stunners, having scored almost a carbon copy for River Plate against Lanus in 2013. “It was very similar,” he said, smiling at the memory.
Japan 2015 experience
Indeed, it was with Los Millonarios that Vangioni made his Club World Cup debut, playing at the 2015 edition as Copa Libertadores winners, but ultimately losing 3-0 to Barcelona in the final. Now, four years later and after a stint in Europe with AC Milan, he is back on the American continent with Monterrey. This time they face a difficult opponent at the semi-final stage against a Liverpool side with an intimidating unbeaten run.
“The game against Liverpool might be something of a poisoned chalice, but it’s what we came here for,” Vangioni said. “We have to keep believing in ourselves and have faith. I think we’ve got a team that can compete, and as long as we’re alive then we’re going to fight for it.”
Asked how Monterrey could combat Jurgen Klopp’s electrifying side, Vangioni did not hesitate in response: “With heart, we’ve got to play with heart. That’s how you have to go into games like this. There’s no other way. It’s 11 against 11 so we’ve got to give everything out on the pitch. Anything can happen in football, so we’re confident in our ability to hurt them with the weapons we’ve got.”
Heart and, perhaps, another left-footed stunner from Monterrey’s No11. “Why not?” he smiled as he departed.