Colombia’s Atletico Nacional arrived in Japan for the Club World Cup on Saturday, still dealing with the trauma of the recent airplane crash that caused the cancellation of the Copa Sudamericana final.
Atletico was to play Chapecoense in the final but the plane carrying the Brazilian team to the game crashed on Nov. 28, killing almost all on board.
Nacional qualified for the Club World Cup by winning the Copa Liberdatores in July, and vowed to honor the memory of its rivals when it faces either South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns or Japanese champions Kashima Antlers on Wednesday.
“The best tribute we can give them is to play a great tournament and reach the final,” Nacional coach Reinaldo Rueda said at Kansai International Airport.
The directors of Atletico asked the governing body of South American football to award Chapecoense the Copa Sudamericana championship.
Atletico is hoping to advance to a final against Spanish giants Real Madrid on Dec. 18.
“We know the responsibility we have to South America,” Atletico captain Alexis Henriquez said. “Rest assured we’ll do the utmost to bring home the Club World Cup.”
European teams have been the most successful in the tournament, with eight titles.