Preview: Ahly eyeing Club World Cup consolation against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal

Ahram Online , Friday 11 Feb 2022

While Ahly's main target was reaching the FIFA Club World Cup final this year, they still have room for consolation as they meet Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in the third-place playoff on Saturday in what coach Pitso Mosimane has described as a "big game".

Rony of Brazil s Palmeiras, left, and Magdi Afsha of Ahly fight for the ball during the Club World Cup semifinal soccer match between Palmeiras and Ahly SC in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022 (AP)

Ahly's South African boss said before the tournament that he was targeting a "different-coloured medal" after the team had twice finished third in 2006 and 2021.

They stunned Mexico's Monterrey with a 1-0 win last weekend despite missing a host of regulars who were away on international duty with Egypt at the African Cup of Nations but were given a reality check by South American champions Palmeiras in the semis.

The Brazilian giants beat Ahly 2-0 to avenge last year's defeat at the hands of the Red Devils in the third-place playoff and set up a final against European champions Chelsea, who laboured to a 1-0 win over Al Hilal.

Al Hilal were unlucky not at least equalise after wasting some good chances in the second half as they gave Chelsea a run for their money.

"Al Hilal played a great game against Chelsea and they were close to equalising the score," Mosimane told a news conference.

"It will be a big game and I have great respect for Al Hilal, as they are the champions of Saudi Arabia and Asia.

"We respect our opponents, but we have a goal and we are keen to achieve it. Our goal is to win the bronze medal this year."

A win for Ahly will further boost Mosimane's chances of agreeing a new deal to prolong his stay at Ahly, with both sides currently in talks to extend his contract.

Since taking charge in October 2020, the 57-year-old has led Ahly to back-to-back African Champions League crowns, an Egypt Cup title and two African Super Cups.

He boasts a proud record in high-profile games, with Ahly only losing to Bayern Munich in the Club World Cup semis last year and to Palmeiras at the ongoing edition in Abu Dhabi.

"We are a big team. We participated seven times in this competition and we aim to reach the final. Everyone here dreams of reaching the final and we will keep working to achieve this dream one day," Mosimane added.

Ahly will have to do without playmaker Magdi Afsha, who's suspended after picking up a second yellow card against Palmeiras, and defender Ayman Ashraf, who earned a late red card in the game. 

The Red Devils last met Al Hilal in a friendly game in 2013, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

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