Club crown would give Saints more to crow about

By Rex Gowar LONDON (Reuters) - San Lorenzo may need divine intervention if they are to bring the Club World Cup trophy back to South America this month. The Argentine side, known as the Saints, believe that because Pope Francis is a supporter, it could give them an edge as they target a final victory over Real Madrid. Former archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Bergoglio, a fan and club member since he was boy, was anointed pope in March 2013 and within 18 months the Saints had won the Libertadores Cup, South America’s top club prize, for the first time. Victory in Morocco for San Lorenzo, also known as The Crows because of the black garments worn by the priest Lorenzo Massa after whom the club were named, would crown a two-year renaissance. Winning the club world title, first in its former guise as the Intercontinental Cup between the champions of the two leading footballing continents, has always meant more to the South Americans than the Europeans. All the more so when the champions of Europe boast some of the world’s top players while their South American rivals are mostly unknown outside their own backyard. “The lads are working all out because they know what they are going to experience is something unique,” San Lorenzo defender Gonzalo Prosperi said. “And if they get to face a team of the standard of Real Madrid, we’ll have to give what Argentine football always does: blood and heart,” said Prosperi who will miss the tournament with a broken foot. “For them it’s just another game but for us it’s a match we might never play again.” San Lorenzo were almost relegated at the end of the 2011/12 season, surviving a relegation-promotion playoff before winning their first league title since 2007 six months later. HOMEWARD BOUND In the meantime, a campaign to take the Saints back to their real home in the Buenos Aires barrio of Boedo from which they were displaced by the former military dictatorship in 1979 is bearing fruit. The municipality of Buenos Aires gave the club the right to build a new stadium, to be named Pope Francis, on the site of their old Gasometro ground, where the team made their name. That site was expropriated by the military for a planned housing project only to be then sold to a major supermarket chain. San Lorenzo have since been playing at the Nuevo Gasometro, a soulless concrete stadium planted in one of the poorest districts of the capital. The team revolve around central midfielders Juan Mercier and Argentine-born Paraguay international Nestor Ortigoza, who together also helped Argentinos Juniors win the league title in 2010. More than the Pope’s prayers, San Lorenzo will depend on the experience of their only man to have been to the Club World Cup before, coach Edgardo Bauza, whose LDU Quito side lost the 2008 final to Manchester United. Bauza, who took over from 2013 league title-winning coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, was handed the job expressly to win San Lorenzo’s maiden Libertadores Cup following his 2008 success, a first for Ecuador. Having done so in August, his team struggled for their best form in the Argentine league, but confidence has grown after they won their last two games and four of the last six. San Lorenzo make their bow in the Dec. 17 semi-final in Marrakesh against the winners of a quarter-final that will feature African champions ES Setif of Algeria and either host team Mohgreb Tetouan or Auckland City. The final is on Dec. 20 in Marrakesh. (Editing by Toby Davis)