Al Ain scored thrice against Esperance de Tunis to book a Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2018 semifinal date with River Plate. Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic said playing Copa Libertadores champion was a great pleasure for the team but warned that the 'Boss' got enough talent and tactics to spring a surprise.
"River Plate are one of the biggest team in the world. They have a big history and a quality side. We have reached the semifinal of the Club World Cup. We have to be happy, focused and motivated. We have to enjoy and be proud of the job done so far but it's not the last thing. We want to represent the country, the club and our team in the best possible way. We will try to make it difficult for River. All the details of the game have to be on the highest level, so that we can maybe make a surprise. River Plate are favourites but favourites don't always win."
Mamic is following the Argentinian sides' matches for a while now.
"I have watched many matches, also the Boca Juniors-River Plate final. They are a great team with individual talents. We have to be better than when we played (Esperance) to survive against them."
The Croatian revealed that he has a long-standing connection with Argentinian football clubs.
"There is one story. Before I started to work as a coach, I was a sporting director at Dinamo Zagreb. We have some Argentinian players in our team. I travel many times to observe some players. First time I came to Argentina, the first game I saw was Boca Juniors-River Plate. It was 10-12 years ago at La Bombonera (Boca stadium) and was unbelievable."
Mamic said River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo was an experienced hand and knows to prepare his side for big occasions. "He has done a great job so far. They had a great season. But they have to respect us. We showed everyone that we can play good football. I am sure it will be an interesting game."
On Saturday, goals from Mohamed Ahmad, Hussein Elshahat and Bandar Al Ababi sank Esperance. The aggressive approach was in stark contrast to the first match against Team Wellington.
"The players were disciplined, focused and had great concentration. In the team meeting, I told them that we don't want to play Kashima (Antlers) or Guadalajara and had to win the match. And they did this in the best possible way. In the first game players were under pressure. I wanted them to enjoy but they felt the pressure. Wellington shocked us but we returned in second half to win that game. We want to reach the final."
Mamic hopes the stadium will be reverberating with fans on Tuesday.
"I hope the stadium will be full. Our fans make a great ambiance in the stadium. I hope some Argentinian fans also come because they make a great atmosphere."
Mamic said his flu-hit players Marcus Berg and Yahia Nader will fully recover for the semifinal and also Mohamed Abdulrahman will return after suspension.
Al Ain play River Plate at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday.
By Ashwani Kumar
Copyright © 2019 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.