…Africa’s champs hope for the best
Onochie Anibeze in Doha
What is happening here in Qatar?
Tension or high expectations?
One may not be wrong to say both.
This afternoon, their champions, Al Sadd will take on the CONCACAF Champions League Champions, Monterrey of Mexico in the quarter finals of the Fifa Club World Cup here.
The hosts of 2022 World Cup had beaten Oceania Champions, Hienghene Sport 3-1 in the opener and now stand a chance to face European champions, Liverpool on Tuesday if they win today.
That is the story here. That’s why the people appear tensed up about today’s game and at the same time full of expectations about the possibility of playing Liverpool, arguably the best side in the world today. Liverpool play with passion. They have character, a classy coach in Juergen Klopp and the game that the world has come to appreciate especially after winning the Champions League and now seemingly comfortable in their leadership of the EPL that only the players can blow the chance of winning that lofty diadem this season.
They attract world attention anywhere and any time they play. And that’s why all eyes are on the ongoing World Club Cup in Qatar. Who enjoy the accolade or rather honour of playing the best team in the world? Qatar people appreciate this. It will be an honour to play Liverpool, win or lose.
Everybody is looking forward to that possible encounter here. But first, they must beat the Mexicans today. Barcelona legend Xavi Hernadez is their coach. He took up the job after playing for the side for four seasons and he is already inculcating the Barcelona style in the team. They try to play possession football. They were the dominant side against Hienghene with 36 attempts at goal and 20 corners. Normally, a side with 36 attempts at goal and 20 corners should easily outrun their opponents. But it was not so.
They won in extra time. It simply shows that Hernadez is still to get it right with scoring. He admits that and hoping for the better with time. Monterrey coach, 49 year old Argentine, Antonio was already ‘jabbing’ Hernadez when he said ‘if Xavi the coach is 50 percent as good as he was as a player, he is going to be really successful.’ But in the next moment he was paying huge respect to the Barcelona legend when he said ‘it will be an honour to play against him.’
For Xavi, ‘Monterrey are an unbelievable side, they are working really well especially under the new coach, Antonio Mohamed. In football we never know what happens but we want to play very well and reach the semifinal and show everybody our level. They are favourites and the pressure will be on them. We’ll just get there and try to enjoy the game.’
Africa’s champions, Esperance of Tunisia take on Al Hilal, Asia’s Champions League reps today.
The Africans did not do well in their past two outings, first losing 2-1 in 2011 to this year’s hosts Al Sadd and being beaten last year by hosts Al Ain. They said that they have learnt from their past mistakes and expect to do better today.
The club World Cup could go as one of the test runs for the 2022 World Cup. It could be rated that way as the country is almost ready to host the world. The trains are now running on some lines, the facilities are superb with some ready and a few going though finishing touches. Qatar have promised the world the best ever World Cup. They are determined to do that. They are on the march. The crowd is here with fans from Brazil and Tunisia arriving last night. Good atmosphere prevails but there is tension here in Qatar today. It’s part of the game.