Mohamd Afsha of Al Ahly shoots by Monterrey's Rogelio Funes during Club World Cup match between Al Ahly and Monterrey in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday Feb.5, 2022. AP
The Cairo giants, who have been missing more than a dozen key players due to injury and national team commitments, booked their place in the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final with a 1-0 victory over Mexico’s Monterrey in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The Red Devils are expected to welcome back their international players after finishing their participation in the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) late on Sunday.
Ahly players who had a commitment with the national team — midfielders Amr El-Sulaya and Hamdi Fathi, defenders Ayman Ashraf and Mohamed Abdel-Moneam, and striker Mohamed Sherif — will be heading to the UAE later on Monday after returning to Cairo in the morning to take part in the game against Palmeiras, according to a statement by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA).
Despite the absence of a host of key players, Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane confirmed that his team is ready for any mission in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The Red Devils defeated Brazilian giants Palmeiras in penalties following a 0-0 draw to win the bronze medal in Qatar in the previous edition of the prestigious tournament.
“We will concentrate on the game against Palmeiras, as we know them well,” Mosimane said.
“We know that the game will be difficult, and victory will not be easy, so we will do our best to win.”
“Palmeiras is a big team, as they claimed the Copa Libertadores twice, but we fear no one,” the coach added.
The 10-time African Champions are also missing other influential players due to injuries, including Moroccan defender Badr Benoun and South African winger Percy Tau, who was signed last summer to be part of the team’s squad for the FIFA Club World Cup.
These absences have dealt a massive blow to Ahly, who were hoping to reach new heights after claiming third place twice in 2006 and 2020.
Ahly is also welcoming back striker Hossam Hassan, who joined the team’s training sessions after recovering from a muscle injury that side-lined him from the opening game of the FIFA Club World Cup against Monterrey on Saturday.
It is the first time for Ahly — who are making their seventh appearance in the Club World Cup — to book a semi-final spot for the second time in a row.
Malian midfielder Aliou Dieng, who introduced a superb performance in the 1-0 victory, believes the next game against Palmeiras will be difficult for his team, as Ahly are bidding to reach the tournament final for the first time.
“We have a new challenge on Tuesday against Palmeiras,” Dieng was quoted as saying on Ahly’s official website.
“Palmeiras is one of the biggest teams, and we managed to beat them in the last edition, but the coming game will be different, as the two sides have big motivations. [A victory] will open the road for Ahly to reach the final and play for the gold or silver medals.”
On the other hand, Palmeiras goalkeeper Weverton confirmed his team will do their best against Ahly in the prestigious tournament’s semi-final.
“Ahly have brave and strong players, but we will do our best to reach the final,” Weverton told a press conference.
“We know all too well that the game will be difficult, and we will follow the coach’s tactics to win the game.”
“Ahly is a good team, and we have to play on their weak points. We played against them last year, but this time I am confident that we will be ready to play a brilliant game,” the Palmeiras goalkeeper added.
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