Al-Jazira one win away from setting up date with Real Madrid

Author: John DuerdenSat, 2017-12-09 03:00ID: 1512767937853621800DUBAI: UAE champions Al-Jazira have a chance tomorrow to gain some Middle East revenge over Urawa Reds of Japan and set up a dream FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Real Madrid.
Urawa dashed Al-Hilal’s hopes of winning the Asian Champions League last month and bringing the trophy to the region for only the second time since 2005. Al-Jazira cannot change that right now but they can strike a blow for West Asia sides by defeating Urawa in the Club World Cup quarter-final tomorrow.
The Whites will have to buck up their ideas, though. Wednesday’s 1-0 playoff win over Auckland City of New Zealand was not a comfortable one and the visiting semi-professionals will return Down Under wondering how they are not still in the competition.
Auckland are Oceania’s usual qualifiers and were making a record ninth appearance in this competition. They tend to be underestimated at this stage but made it to the last eight in 2014 and 2009. The year 2017 should have been added to the list. Al-Jazira coach Henk ten Cate was correct in both his assertions after the game. “They were the better side,” said the Dutchman “but in football sometimes the best doesn’t win.”
The stats show that Auckland had 17 shots to Al-Jazira’s five as well as 59 percent of the possession. New Zealand observers agreed that City had never been so dominant and, presumably, never so disappointed, but they were unable to find a way past the inspired Ali Khasif in goal.
At least the hosts showed their ruthlessness, scoring a fine goal seven minutes before the break thanks to a long-range thunderbolt from Brazilian Romarinho. It was a strike worthy of winning any game, even if the same cannot be said of the Al-Jazira performance.
Nobody will care now. In this tournament, the first game is about getting through to the next and nothing more, a tie simply to be negotiated and then forgotten. The focus is now on tomorrow.
Al-Jazira will know from watching the Champions League final that Urawa’s rigid 4-1-4-1 formation is hard to break down and can be frustrating to play against. They also know that Rafael Silva needs just one chance to score and the defence, marshalled by Tomoaki Makino, is well-organised, and even when it is not, Shusaku Nishikawa is one of the continent’s better goalkeepers.
Beating the Asian champions will be welcome but there is more: Real Madrid lie in wait in the semi-finals. To end 2017 with a victory against the Asian champions on the global stage and then take on the biggest club team of them all on home soil would be a sweet finish to a sour year for the UAE. The national team, one that had been full of such high hopes of a place in Russia, finished a distant fourth in their 2018 World Cup qualification group. The Asian Champions League wasn’t exactly great with Al-Ain the best performer in reaching the quarter-finals. Al-Jazira finished, winless, at the bottom of their group. Victory against Urawa Reds would therefore be a shot in the arm for football in the UAE and be celebrated, you suspect, in Riyadh.
Main category: Sports

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