The ES Tunis team celebrate winning the Caf Champions League. Photo: Lahbibi Salah/EPA

RADES – The success of African club champions Esperance was based on a strong defence and the Tunis-based side is now looking to continue the same formula when they take their place in the FIFA Club World Cup, which is scheduled to be played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Wednesday to December 22.

The seven-team competition features the champions from each of the six confederations, plus the domestic champions of the host nation.

The games will be played in the cities of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Esperance of Tunisia, after their CAF Champions League glory, will be representing Africa at the event.

The Tunis-based side negotiated several tricky hurdles across Africa before reaching the final, where they took on Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly.

African football observers often claim that a strong defence is a virtual guarantee of trophies, and the significant role that Esperance captain and defender Khelil Chemmam played in his team's success is a testament to that.

"Winning the Champions League this year was special because it came in the club’s centenary year and against a big team like Al Ahly,” Chemmam told FIFA.com.

“Out of all the trophies we’ve won, this one is unique because we not only beat them, but we also played better than them.

“It was a happy day for Tunisia and for Esperance’s supporters, of course. 

"It was an exceptional tournament for us.”

Esperance’s first opponents will be the winners of the match between Al Ain (UAE) and Team Wellington (New Zealand).

“Regardless of who we play in the quarter-finals, it’ll be a tough match,” said Chemmam. 

“Without a doubt, if Al Ain qualify, they’ll have a lot of supporters in the stands, and that will give them a boost.

“However, our fans will be there for us too. 

"They follow us wherever we go, and we expect that to continue at the Club World Cup.”

Aside from Chemmam, Tunisia can also call on the experience of Moez Ben Cherifia, Sameh Darbali and Taha Yassin Khenissi.

“We should concentrate on our quarterfinal first, and take each game as it comes,” said Chemmam.

“We have to focus on our initial opponents and do our research beforehand. 

"We must give our all on the pitch.

“Appearing at the Club World Cup might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some players, that is why we have to stay focused and do our best to advance as far as we can in the competition.”

Going into the Club World Cup, do Esperance have any specific aims?

“We didn’t really envisage winning the Champions League this season, but we wanted to go as far as possible,” said Chemmam.

“There wasn’t much pressure on us, and we managed to go on a run and claim the title, and so we’ll try to do the same in the Club World Cup.

“We won’t set an objective, but everyone’s been dreaming of making it to the final and playing Real Madrid, the European champions.” 

African News Agency (ANA)