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Africa’s Esperance win fans, lose match

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By Onochie Anibeze in Qatar

…Mexican champs ready for Liverpool

World Club Cup

Africans who were here Saturday night left the Al Sadd stadium sad that their representatives in the FIFA World Club Cup lost to Asia Champions, Al Hilal. But they were proud of passion Tunisia’s seeming football culture portrayed. Esperance are one of the most supported clubs in Africa.

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The flames fans see in Tunis when Esperance play were ignited at the stadium here. I’m not sure Qatari people have experienced such passion before now. Tunisians turned Doha into their yellow and red colours, outnumbering supporters from Qatar’s neighbours, Saudi Arabia where Al Hilal are from. They were in groups, sang on the streets on their way to the stadium.

They settled in groups outside the stadium, sang and danced as all watched the carnival they made of the World Club Cup. They entertained everybody. People who did not go to stadium saw them on the streets. Inside the stadium, it was fire all through. They were an amazing spectacle. Some fans had the misfortune of being allocated seats where the Tunisians fans held sway.

They were forced to stand all through as the fans stood, some even standing on chairs to cheer. Sitting would not keep them warm. They stood, beating drums, jumping, singing and all pointing to the goal of their opponents as if they were conjuring magic that could command the ball into the goal.

They were loud and ceaseless in their support. The spectacle was not only on the pitch where Al Hilal appeared slightly better in organisational play but also on the stands where Esperance dominated and made the match their show. Qatar would be hoping that they qualify to add to colour to what 2022 World Cup promises.

They lit flares, turned the stadium into red with their cheering so loud they compelled others to watch them. And they were all over the stadium.

When in the 73 minute superb substitute Befetimbi Gomis of France and Swansea fame scored a superb goal for Al Hilal, the Tunisians were disappointed but that did not stop the supporters. They cheered on even after the match, showing great sportsmanship that delighted everybody here.

“They should be here in 2022,” one journalist said as they left the stadium. They lost the match but won the hearts of fans with their passion.

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Al Hilal face South American champions, Flamingoes of Brazil in the semifinals on Tuesday.

CONCACAF champions, Monterrey face soaring European champions Liverpool in a match that may not be easy for the reds, their flying status notwithstanding.

Liverpool have become the story of this years World Club Cup taking place in Qatar, hosts of the 2022 World Cup. When team of the hosts, Al Sadd were to play Monterrey, one online platform here described them as two teams who would have the honour of being eliminated by Liverpool.

This meant that playing Liverpool would be an honour to them and dreaming of victory would be out of place. This may be true going by current form but things happen in football. And if one takes into consideration challenges English sides have against South American teams, it could be wrong to rule out any chance for Monterrey.

They won a tough match against Al Sadd. one of the best sides in Asia. A five goal thriller here kept fans on the edges of their seats. Al Sadd boast of Barcelona legend, Xavi Hernadez as their manager. He became coach after playing for the side in four seasons. Al Sadd displayed the Barcelona passing game in their 3-1 win over Oceania champions, Hienghene last Wednesday. But that a match they had 36 attempts at goal and played 20 corners.

They dominated but had difficulties scoring. They needed extra time to win. They probably could not have lost against Monterrey if they were more direct in their approach. When Barcelona play without Messy, their possession games sometimes produce no victories.

Al Sadd must add shooting to their game. They come close to goal and still pass the ball back. So many diagonal passes, passes to the right or left even when space ‘lurked’ in front. Two times they were direct they scored when Baghdad Bounedjah headed in and when Abdelkarim Hassan produced a 25 yard rocket that made the last moments nervy.

Monterrey were already 3-1 up before Hassan’s goal that raised hope for the home team and forced the Mexicans to play for time. You would wonder why they were not direct if they could score the way they did. They have a Barcelona legend as their coach and fans saw that element or character of Barcelona in them. The difference is that Barcelona entertain and score brilliant goals. Al Sadd should try to emulate properly.

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Fans can’t wait to watch Liverpool take on the Mexicans and for Flamingoes to beat Al Hilal and face Liverpool in the final. That is the prediction here. Qatar is agog especially with the National Day Celebrations going on and the Doha Forum that attracted world leaders just ending.

Vanguard

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