Who are Kashima Antlers? Real Madrid's Club World Cup final opponents profiled

Zinedine Zidane's side are up against a surprise adversary in Yokohama on Sunday. And here, Goal takes a closer look at the Japanese team

As expected, Real Madrid edged out Mexican side America on Thursday to advance to the final of the Club World Cup. In it, however, the European champions will not be meeting South American side Atletico Nacional, but Kashima Antlers.

Real Madrid beat America to reach CWC final

Copa Libertadores winners Atletico had been expected to meet Zinedine Zidane's side in Sunday's showpiece, but instead the Japanese team progressed courtesy of a surprise 3-0 victory in Osaka to become the first Asian representative to qualify for a Club World Cup final.

So ahead of their meeting with Madrid, Goal takes a closer look at the J. League side...


WHERE ARE KASHIMA ANTLERS FROM?


Kashima is a city located in the eastern part of the northern Kanto region of Japan, some three hours from Tokyo, with an estimated population of around 66,860. The Antlers part is derived from the city's name, with Kashima meaning "deer island".

Since the J. League's creation and introduction of professional football in the nation in 1993, Kashima have proved by far Japan's most successful club, having won the title a record eight times, the J. League Cup six times and the Emperor's Cup four times.

Kashima Antlers are funded by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, the world's third-largest producer of steel in 2015, and were founded in 1947. in 1993, the club rebranded as Kashima Antlers following the formation of the J. League.

Brazil legend Zico played for the club between 1991 and 1994, helping Kashima Antlers win promotion and etablish themselves in the top flight. Today, a statue of Zico stands outside the stadium in Kashima, which was one of the host venues at the 2002 World Cup.


HOW DID THEY REACH THE CLUB WORLD CUP FINAL?


Kashima Antlers came third in the J. League this year, finishing 15 points behind first-place team Urawa Reds. However, the tournament was decided by a knockout stage and the club went on to win the J. League Championship.

After beating Kawasaki Frontale in the semi-finals, Kashima Antlers met Urawa Reds in the final. And despite losing the first leg 1-0 at home and going behind in the second game, they scored twice after that to seal victory on away goals.

Kashima Antlers stun Atletico to reach CWC final

In the Club World Cup, Kashima Antlers beat New Zealand's Auckland City 2-1 in the first round, then knocked out South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns with a 2-0 victory in the second round, before their surprise 3-0 win over Atletico Nacional in the semi-finals set up Sunday's meeting with Real Madrid.


WHO ARE KASHIMA ANTLERS' BEST PLAYERS?


Mu Kanazaki is the club's most dangerous player. The former Nuremberg and Portimonense striker has versatility and fine techinque which he gained through futsal, as well as speed and power. He is strong with both feet and scores goals, also with his head.

Yuma Suzuki is a 20-year-old forward who also possesses a goal threat. The youngster is often used as a suber-sub and netted 10 times for Kashima Antlers last season.

Playmaker Gaku Shibasaki has great vision and is another talent, while Japanese international Ryota Nagaki is a hard-working presence in central midfield. Naomichi Ueda and Gen Shoji are young central defenders considered to be the future of the national team.

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DO THEY HAVE A CHANCE OF BEATING REAL MADRID?


It's not very likely, especially given that Kashima Antlers finished third in the J. League last season. However, the Japanese team are good at controlling and reading games and they have enjoyed an excellent run to the final of the Club World Cup.

Fans talk about the "spirit of Zico" and with the competition being played in Japan, the Antlers will have excellent support in Sunday's match in Yokohama.

That local advantage could help them, but the huge difference in budget and quality between the two teams makes Madrid huge favourites to win the trophy.