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Fifa Club World Cup UAE: Al Hilal, Al Ahly to give it all for third-place medal

Muscle memory: Al Ahly players during a training session in Abu Dhabi on Friday.  — Al Ahly Twitter
Muscle memory: Al Ahly players during a training session in Abu Dhabi on Friday. — Al Ahly Twitter

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 9:01 PM

Both Asian champions Al Hilal and African giants Al Ahly have failed to reach their first Fifa Club World Cup final but now promise to fight till the finish for the bronze medal in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

In the semis, Al Hilal lost 0-1 to Uefa champions Chelsea and Al Ahly went down 0-2 to South American side Palmeiras.

Leonardo Jardim, head coach of AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal, noted the players are ready for an “interesting and a hard-fought match” against the CAF champions.

“After failing in our purpose to play the final, we are moving on to our second goal to take the third place. We know that the opponents have the same ambitions. We will fight to win as we always do. This will be a difficult match. Both teams come from a string of great matches,” Jardim told reporters at Al Nahyan Stadium.

Al Hilal finished fourth in their maiden appearance in 2019 whereas Al Ahly took the bronze medal twice from their seven participations. Asked if the opponent’s experience at the big stage will be a decisive factor, Jardim said: “In football and in life, experience is always important. We respect the opponents. We want to be competitive and do our best to achieve the objective of getting third place. We don’t see any opponent as weaker or stronger. We always play to win.”

Al Hilal’s Colombian midfielder Gustavo Cuellar is expecting a highly competitive encounter.

“Our goal was to play the final but now we have to get third place. This is very important for our club.”

Meanwhile, Al Ahly’s head coach Pitso Mosimane, too echoed similar sentiments.

“We have a big game, again, to play. We have a medal to play for. Hopefully, we will give Africa the medal like we did last season. Yes, we wanted a different colour of medal,” he said referring to the third-place 3-2 penalty shootout win over Palmeiras in the 2020 edition.

The South African manager said that everyone at the club remains disappointed after losing to Palmeiras this time. “We feel we could have done better against Palmeiras. Last year, we beat them. So, we come with a spirit and belief that we can make it again. But things didn’t go as they were supposed to. We had a chance to be in the final but we are not there.”

The coach pointed out “lack of good preparations” because regulars were missing because of injuries and the AFCON tournament, and several players down with Covid-19, weeks before the Club World Cup.

“It has been very difficult preparation. We are still going to fight for the medal.”

Skipper Ramy Rabia added: “We respect our opponents. It will be a beautiful game. We hope to win.”

Third-place match:

Al Ahly vs Al Hilal, Al Nahyan Stadium (5 pm)

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