Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Challenge of the clubs

Ahli passed their first test match at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan by beating the home side Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1,
Abeer Anwar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

By the time Al-Ahram Weekly went to print, the semi-final between Ahli of Egypt and Corinthians of Brazil had been played.
Whatever the result, it cannot detract from Ahli’s first game performance against home side Sanfrecce Hiroshima. For the second time in their storied history, Ahli reached the semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory over host team Sanfrecce Hiroshima which had earlier edged Auckland City of New Zealand in their opener 1-0.
From the opening whistle on Sunday Ahli players were on guard. They scored the first goal by Al-Sayed Hamdi who slotted home a loose ball from close range.
Hiroshima started poorly but eventually found their feet. Hisato Sato, the Japanese top flight leading scorer this year, collected and fired home from a tight angle to level the score. Ahli’s second was scored by Mohamed Abu Treika, his fourth goal at a FIFA Club World Cup, levelling him for all-time top scorer honours with Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona and Brazilian Denilson.
Abu Treika, the 34-year-old legend, and veteran of four world club finals, proved to be the hero after replacing the injured Hossam Ghali midway through the first half.  
“I can’t believe myself,” Hamdi said after the game. “I was very happy to have the chance to join the team and be chosen to fly to Japan but to score the team’s first goal was a dream that came true. I did my best in training and I will do my best to be able to serve my favorite club Ahli.”
Sanfrecce will now battle it out for fifth place against Ulsan Hyndai, who were beaten by Mexico’s Monterrey in the earlier match at Toyota Stadium.
“Of course, I’m very happy,” Ahli coach Hossam Al-Badri said. “It was a difficult game because Hiroshima are a good team and are very well organised. They started very strongly on the flanks which is why and I instructed my players to close down the spaces out wide. I brought on Mohamed Abu Treika to strengthen our attack. In the second half we were more active going forward and in my opinion we deserved to win.”
Sanfrecce Hiroshima coach Hajime Moriyasu said his players lost concentration. “The team was tired. Despite that we still managed to create some good chances, but unfortunately we didn’t make the most of them. Now we’ll prepare for the match for fifth place against Ulsan Hyundai as best we can. We want to continue to play well here on the international stage. We’ve picked up a lot of valuable experience against physically strong teams here and have seen that we’re able to compete with them,” Moriyasu told FIFA.com.
Ahli’s match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima was their eighth at a FIFA Club World Cup, a competition record. The CAF Champions League winners are now guaranteed to play at least 10 matches before leaving Japan, whatever the result of the semi-final.  It is the fourth appearance for Ahli in the FIFA Club World Cup.
Against Corinthians, Ahli faced the Brazilian champions who after 12 years away, were back on the FIFA Club World Cup stage aiming to win the title for a second time. They were the winners in 2000 and hope to add a second title which would add further fame to an impressive two years which featured triumph in the 2011 Brasileiro championship and the 2012 Copa Libertadores.
Two players that symbolise the level of balance in the two squads are Corinthians’ defender Chicao and the Red Devils’ professional attacker Abu Treika, who have been at their respective clubs since 2008 and 2004.
Against Corinthians yesterday 14 December, Ahli, the African champions, missed the efforts of star Ghali, the influential former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder who suffered a knee injury during the game.
“I’m very upset we’ll miss the efforts of Ghali,” said teammate Mohamed Barakat.  “It would have been better for us to have lost the first game than lose the talents of Ghali in the upcoming matches.”
Ahli players are also suffering from a lack of Egyptian cuisine after being unable to find a suitable cook to their taste and liking in Japan. They were unable to take their well-known club cook on the trip due to a shortage of finances. Moreover, the team had to deal with the cold and the rain which Egyptians are by nature not used to.
Before the match with Ahli, Corinthians coach Tite had this to say to FIFA.com:  “I don’t think that past results determine who the favourites are. What decides that is the strength of each team, over the 90 minutes of their semi-final. But a team’s experience does have an impact, and so does the quality of the players. We’re very aware of that fact. We know what our strengths are, but I don’t believe we’re the favourites. I believe in the players’ ability to prepare well for this game.”
Prior to the match Al-Badri said he had not had much time to study Corinthians. “It is the very first time we face them but I am very confident about my team which is well trained and in good shape. We have a very big target. We need to do our best to reach the final and please all Egyptians in general and Ahli fans in particular, especially after the sacrifices they have done for the sake of their team. I think it is the right time for Egyptians to celebrate and put their sorrows and miseries aside. I hope we can do that.”
“I’m delighted to be here and playing in my first FIFA competition,” Ahli star Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagi said. “I hope we can reach the final and take on Chelsea and [Fernando] Torres, who’s one of my favourite players.”
Monterrey swept aside Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai 3-1 win, setting up a glamour clash with English Premier League giants Chelsea who are representing Europe. The team that wins goes straight to the final.
Ahli’s previous best finish was third in 2006.

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