MARRAKECH, Morocco — Real Madrid's opponents in the Club World Cup final will be San Lorenzo after the South American champions ended a storybook run by amateur side Auckland City with a labored 2-1 semifinal win on Wednesday.
Madrid will be heavily favored to win its first Club World Cup on Saturday after San Lorenzo, Pope Francis' favorite team, needed extra time to overcome Auckland's semi-pros and amateurs who fit football around day jobs.
Given their meager resources, it could have been the ultimate David vs. Goliath story had the Oceania champions advanced to face the world's richest team.
The only resemblance between Auckland and Madrid are their white shirts. The New Zealand squad that traveled to Morocco includes a truck driver, a cleaner, a couple of laborers, students, a lawyer, a kitchen salesman, a brewery worker and paid players who double as school football coaches.
And, for a while, it looked like an upset could have been on the cards when Angel Berlanga's second-half goal — beautifully placed from the acutest of angles — cancelled out Pablo Barrientos' first-half strike for San Lorenzo.
Instead, substitute Mauro Matos netted San Lorenzo's winner after three minutes of extra time.
But Auckland won both respect and self-respect.
"Being semi-professional doesn't mean they're not a good team," Barrientos said. "They were at a very high level."
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx said the manner of his team's defeat felt like "a big, big win.
"We are the moral winners by a mile tonight," he said. "We will remember this for a long time."
The 18,458 crowd in the Grand Stade de Marrakech — about half the size of that for Madrid's 4-0 semifinal victory Tuesday against Cruz Azul — included a large San Lorenzo contingent that sang boisterously to the tune of "Bad Moon Rising."
That brought back memories of Argentina fans' chanting at this year's World Cup in Brazil. But the quality of the football did not. Ball retention was poor. The pace was slow and passes went awry.
Little in San Lorenzo's uninspired performance should keep Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti from sleep before Saturday.
Auckland's tactic of defending in numbers kept the Copa Libertadores champions scoreless until the second minute of first-half stoppage time. Barrientos' flicked the ball up with his right foot and half-volleyed it with his left past Tamati Williams, a zoology student and Auckland's goalkeeper.
"The team was nervous and not very precise. We don't usually lose the ball so often," San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza said."The next match is a different story."
Madrid is on a Spanish record run of 21 successive wins in all competitions and is looking for Club World Cup victory to cap its year when it won the Champions League and Copa del Rey. Its star forward Cristiano Ronaldo picked up the Ballon d'Or trophy as world player of the year in 2013.
Auckland will play CONCACAF champions Cruz Azul in the third-place match on Saturday. Auckland defeated Moroccan side Moghreb Tetouan and the champions of Africa, Entente Sportive de Setif from Algeria, to reach the semifinals.
Earlier Wednesday, Setif beat Western Sydney Wanderers, the Asian champions, 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out to win the match for fifth place, after the two sides finished 2-2 at full time.
San Lorenzo: Sebastian Torrico; Mario Yepes, Walter Kannemann, Emmanuel Mas; Juan Mercier, Julio Buffarini, Enzo Kalinski (Mauro Matos,77), Pablo Barrientos, Nestor Ortigoza (Facundo Quignon, 109); Martin Cauteruccio, Gonzalo Veron (Leandro Romagnol, 68).
Auckland City: Tamati Williams; Takuya Iwata, Angel Berlanga, John Irving, Ivan Vicelich, Marko Dordevic (Sanni Issa, 96); Mario Bilen, Tim Payne; Ryan de Vries, Emiliano Tade (David Browne, 90), Fabrizio Tavano (Sam Burfoot, 100).