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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 12, 2006

Barcelona signal intent to be 'world champions'

YOKOHAMA, Dec 12 (Reuters) - European champions Barcelona warned on Tuesday that they were deadly serious about creating history by lifting the Club World Cup.

The Catalans are odds-on favourites to go one better than Johan Cruyff's classic Barca side of the early 1990s by returning to Spain with a first world title.

'We haven't had much time to prepare and we still have jetlag,' world player of the year Ronaldinho told reporters a day after the team's arrival in Japan for the six-team tournament.

'But make no mistake - for us this is serious. Barcelona have never won the title of the best team in the world and the players all want to be a part of history.'

Barcelona take on Mexico's America in the semi-finals on Thursday after they and South American champions Internacional of Brazil were given first-round byes.

Barca's clash with America may lack the spice of their Champions League clashes with Chelsea over recent seasons but midfielder Xavi said he still expected a competitive game.

'We still feel a bit groggy with the effects of jetlag. The muscles are still stiff and we're definitely not 100 percent,' he said.

'Yes we're supposed to be the favourites but I am sure America will be in better physical condition. They're a dangerous team and it will be a difficult game.'

America struggled past South Korea's Chonbuk Motors 1-0 on Monday and are unlikely to pose a serious threat to Barcelona in Yokohama.

Cruyff's Barcelona were beaten 2-1 by Sao Paulo in 1992 in the Club World Cup's forerunner, a one-off encounter between the European and South American champions.

Frank Rijkaard's side are anxious to set the record straight.

'For us it is extremely important to write this new chapter in Barca's history,' said captain Carles Puyol. 'We don't expect it to be easy but we have come here to win the title.'

Internacional are expected to meet Barca in Sunday's final and Ronaldinho played coy when asked what he knew about Inter's 17-year-old wonderkid Pato Alexandre -- or 'Alex the Duck'.

'I've heard of him,' smiled Ronaldinho. 'I know about all of Inter's players because they're Brazilian. I've heard he is a big talent with great potential. But I've never seen him play.'