ABU DHABI – Al Ain go into Saturday’s final of the Club World Cup knowing that they need to move trough the gears if they are to have any hope of stopping giants Real Madrid bagging a record third straight world crown.
The Abu Dhabi club are the dominant force at home, and the only UAE side to have ever won the Asian Champions League – in 2004 – and coach Zoran Mamic is dreaming of racing to what would be the biggest ever result in the history of Arab football.
“We’re almost like a Smart car against a Mercedes, but every now and again, a Smart can beat a Mercedes,” said Mamic.
Mamic’s side stunned River Plate in the semi-finals, winning on penalties after an end-to-end encounter with the Argentines, who had arrived in Abu Dhabi just days after finally seeing off Boca Juniors in the disrupted Copa Libertadores final.
The 47-year-old Mamic admitted though that Real will go into the final heavy favourites.
“The strength of Real Madrid is the whole team, every player can make the difference,” he said.
“Even the defence: (Sergio) Ramos, (Dani) Carvajal, Marcelo, (Raphael) Varane... it could be anyone, so we can’t just focus on stopping the attack, but the whole team.”
However, he suggested that his side could go one better than fellow Abu Dhabi club Al Jazira, who last year ran Madrid close in the competition’s semi-finals before goals from departed Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale put the European champions into the final.
“Last year we have the example of Al Jazira, against who Real had 10 chances to score and didn’t, then Al Jazira took their one chance and Real struggled to get back into it,” added Mamic.
Mamic was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to nearly five years in prison by a Croatian court over claims he colluded with his brother Zdravko – considered the kingpin of Croatian football – and others to embezzle millions from Dinamo Zagreb.
Zoran Mamic has described the verdict as “invalid” and is appealing.
📸| In preparations for Real Madrid Match in FIFA Club World Cup Final tomorrow. @alainfcae Final Training today at @ZayedSportsCity— Al Ain FC - EN (@alainfcae_en) December 21, 2018
More Pictures 👇 https://t.co/8HKgDi78Zt #alainclub #ClubWC pic.twitter.com/DRxqRFzrHz
Al Ain are taking on a Madrid side with Bale in fine fettle following his hat trick that saw off Kashima Antlers 3-1 on Wednesday.
Real boss Santiago Solari, who won the old Intercontinental Cup with the club as a player in 2002, said he was not underestimating his opponents after their shock win over River, and contended that the competition was more “democratic” than it has been historically.
“You expected River to win, but we can’t talk of surprises as we have seen similar results in previous years,” said Solari.
“To win the title for the third year in a row would be exceptional, a great achievement for these players... it’s an unprecedented and great opportunity.”AFP