Gareth Bale scored thrice in 11 minutes as Real Madrid thrashed Kashima Antlers 3-1 to advance to their third straight World Cup final.
Bale, who was a doubt for the defending champions with an ankle injury, scored his first in the 44th minute before adding two more in the 53rd and 55th minutes to complete a resounding victory for the three-time winners.
The Welshman, who broke his domestic goal-drought two weeks ago, fired his first after getting to the end of a quality pass from Marcelo. His low shot sailing beyond the stretched hands of Antlers goalkeeper Sun-Taw Kwoun.
But the first opportunity of the match had come for Asian champions when striker Serginho tested Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois with a left-footed shot from close range.
The J1 side had other opportunities to take the lead but failed to breach the Madrid defence, which led by skipper Sergio Ramos, looked to have finally found some form. Those missed chances, however, proved costly as Bale made them pay with two goals in two minutes after the break.
His second came from a Shuto Yamamoto miscued back pass on which Bale pounced on before slotting the ball into an open net. Two minutes later, the 29-year-old completed his hat-trick with a powerful effort from outside the box that hit the top roof of the net.
Madrid’s only concern from the victory would be Marco Asensio’s injury, who lasted just 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute for Bale and had to be replaced by Casemiro.
Madrid will now host Al Ain in the Club World Cup final on Saturday. Los Blancos are chasing their fourth overall and third consecutive title in the competition.
Meanwhile, Kashima will take on another losing semi-finalists River Plate in a consolation match.