Club World Cup: UAE's Al Jazira Brace for Real Madrid Challenge

Club World Cup: UAE's Al Jazira Brace for Real Madrid Challenge
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Published December 11th, 2017 - 20:09 GMT via

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Al Jazira squad
Al Jazira squad

Henk ten Cate has always maintained: 'Anything is possible in football'. The coach has proved it beyond doubt by helping Al Jazira secure its only second Arabian Gulf League and third President's Cup titles.

Al Jazira aren't a side blessed with great players but a closely functioning unit where each member stands up for the other. They work hard and turn dreams into reality. The 'Pride of Abu Dhabi' are quite a gripping story of an underdog challenging the established legacy and rewriting history books as the ongoing FIFA Club World Cup is proving.

The UAE club first edged past nine-time participant and OFC Champions League winners Auckland City in the play-offs and then didn't mess up the only opportunity to score against Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds in the second-round match. And now in the semi-finals, they stand battle-ready for Real Madrid - the FIFA Club of the 20th Century.

Can Ali Mabkhout or Romarinho put one past Marcelo and Keylor Navas? Can Fares Juma and Salim Rashid hold off Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale? These are the questions which every ardent UAE football fan is asking.

On paper, Al Jazira players aren't match to any name in Real Madrid, but again they weren't in same class as City or Urawa. Irrespective of the result against the UEFA Champions League winners, Al Jazira will give a good account of them.

Barcelona and Chelsea's former assistant coach Ten Cate will ensure the encounter isn't a mismatch. He has experience of managingEl Clasicoencounters against Real Madrid. And the Dutchman will surely have few aces up his sleeves to surprise 'The Whites' this time around too.

Al Jazira can also turn pages and look up to result of the UEFA Euro 2004 Final when decent club players steered Greece over Figo and Ronaldo's Portugal. Agelos Charisteas scored from a headerin 57 minutesto pull off a sensational victory, which not even their staunch supporters would have believed was possible.

And when measuring teams from FIFA Club World Cup, Once Caldas - a name of a Colombian side - stunned Argentinian powerhouse Boca Juniors to clinch the 2004 Copa Libertadores title.

It is this unpredictable nature of football, which makes it a global sport.

A talented Al Jazira side have got many such setbacks and upset wins to get motivated from apart from the tactical brilliance of Ten Cate to pull a rabbit out when it matters.

All said and done, Al Jazira will be up against world's best team, which is trying to set a record with its title defence and make it No. 3 after 2014 and 2016 championships.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is enjoying a perfect week as far as results go and remains confident the good run will continue. "Everyone thinks that it'll be easy but it won't be. We want to do a good job and win another trophy," he said.

As far as Al Jazira are concerned, they got nothing to lose but only gain from this experience. It's time for underdog to bite for the finals slot.

By Ashwani Kumar

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