JITDAH (AFP) – Saudi Al-Ittihad take on Egypt’s Al-Ahly in Jeddah on Friday in the second round of the twentieth edition of the Club Football World Cup, with memories of the Arab summit meeting 18 years ago in Japan for the same match.
Al-Ittihad competes in the annual continental champions competition that crowns the host country’s league champion, while Al-Ahli represent the African continent after winning the Champions League for the eleventh time.
Al-Ittihad secured their place in the second round (quarter-finals) with a 3-0 win over New Zealand’s Oceania champions Auckland City on Tuesday at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, host of the Arab derby. The winner between the two teams will qualify to meet South American champions Fluminense of Brazil in the semi-finals.
The two teams previously met in the quarter-finals in Japan in 2005, with Al-Ittihad winning 1-0 thanks to a late goal from star player Mohamed Noor, before losing 2-3 to Brazil’s Sao Paulo in the quarter-finals. .
Al-Ahli will be hoping to avenge this defeat, while Al-Ittihad are looking to commit their contract to the Cairo side, who defeated them by two goals in the 1995 Arab Elite Championship. One and 3-2 in the 2001 Egyptian-Saudi Super Cup.
Al-Ittihad will be hoping to repeat what compatriot Al-Hilal achieved in the last edition when they beat Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca in the second round and then Brazil’s Flamengo in the semi-finals before losing to Spain’s Real Madrid in the final. 3-5.
But the beliefs of Al-Ittihad, known as Dean, the owner of the land and the public, clash with the experiences of Al-Ahli, who have finished third three times in 9 appearances in 21 matches (2006-2020-2021).
The match features a unique crowd atmosphere. While Al-Ittihad is armed with its raucous fans, Al-Ahly will benefit from hosting the match in Saudi Arabia, home to around 1.5 million Egyptians. Radiant Jewel Stadium.
Escape from league disappointment
As both teams enter this Arab summit, they are going through a clear phase of technical volatility.
Al-Ittihad enter the competition on the back of a 1-3 defeat to Damac in the league, which left Argentina coach Marcelo Gallardo’s side axing Nuño Espirito Santo from the Portuguese squad last month. After 16 stages.
The Union will try to shake off the dust of its negative results in the local league and appear in a different way, especially after recovering several injured players, except for the Italian Luis Felipe, who is not in Gallardo’s accounts. .
The new coach said, “The crowd atmosphere in the Auckland City match was good. We will be playing against the biggest team in Africa and will perform well.”
Al-Ittihad relies on its veteran French striker Karim Benrima, who won the Club World Cup five times under the colors of his former Spanish side Real Madrid, most recently winning the Golden Ball award for best player in 2022. the world
Benzema made history by scoring Al-Ittihad’s third goal in Auckland, becoming the first player to score in four different editions.
With his fifth goal, the 35-year-old moved into third place on the all-time top scorers list, sharing it with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Cesar Delgado and Uruguay’s Luis Soares. (6)
Apart from Benzema, Al-Ittihad also rely on players who have made their mark in international competitions at club or national team level, meaning stars such as French midfielder N’Kolo Kante and Brazilian Fabinho were in the squad. He moved to the Saudi league with lavish deals at the start of the season.
The FIFA website quoted Egyptian Ahmed Hegazi, Al-Ittihad’s centre-back against his former team, as saying, “The next match will not be easy against a big club like Al-Ahly in Egypt. Al-Ittihad is also a big club, so it is in the Arab world. It will be a fun match.
Al-Ahli and the weightless stage
Al-Ittihad fans hope Benzema will continue to hug the net in the match against Al-Ahly, which also goes through the weightless phase.
After losing the African Super Cup to Algeria’s USM Al-Azeema in Aba, Saudi Arabia in September, Al-Ahly exited the new competition, the African League, without a win (three draws and one loss).
Al-Ahly is competing in its fourth consecutive World Cup amid criticism aimed at its players and technical staff led by Swiss Marcel Koehler, following a technical slump and the team’s mediocre results domestically and in Africa.
Apart from a draw with Smouha in the local league, the team is winless in its last three matches as they drew with Young Africans of Tanzania and CS Belouistad of Algeria in the African Champions League.
Kohler admitted his team was suffering from a “crisis of confidence” before heading to Jeddah, which he said was “the primary cause of wasted opportunities”.
He declared that wasting chances was “our eternal problem. The goals conceded in recent matches have been our biggest enemy”.
Facing an Al-Ittihad battalion of talented Brazilians returning from Romarino’s injury, Al-Ahly are armed with their winger Hussain El-Shahad, who tops the list of most capped players at the Club World Cup with 12. Competitions, South Africa’s Percy Dow, who recently won the best domestically active African player award, and his veteran goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy.
His former striker, Imad Miteb, who played in the 2005 tournament, told the FIFA website, “As Al-Ahli needs to appear in its usual style, it is important to control the middle of the pitch and not overdo it defensively. .
At the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah, Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan play CONCACAF champions Leon of Mexico, and the winner of them will meet European champions Manchester City of England. -Finals.
© 2023 AFP
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