Corinthians wary of solid Al Ahly in semis
TOYOTA, Japan - The Associated Press
Al Ahly’s Mohamed Aboutrika (R) celebrates with teammate Ahmed Fathi after scoring the winning goal during the quarter final match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Corinthians players say the Egyptian side should not be taken lightly. EPA photoCorinthians defender Alessandro insists the Copa Libertadores winners won’t be taking African champion Al Ahly lightly when the two teams meet in the semifinals of the Club World Cup.
The Brazilian giants head into today’s semifinal as the heavy favorites but don’t have to look far back in tournament to know upsets can happen.
In the 2010 tournament, TP Mazembe became the first African team to reach the Club World Cup final when it beat Copa Libertadores winners Internacional 2-0 in the semis.
“We don’t have any leeway to think about the final yet,” Alessandro said yesterday. “We have to focus on the game tomorrow and respect the teams that made it to this tournament.”
Corinthians won the Club World Cup in 2000 and arrives in Japan having become the first unbeaten Copa Libertadores champion since 1978. It is seeking to become the first side other than Barcelona to win the competition for a second time.
The winner of today’s match will face the winner of tomorrow’s other semifinal between European champions Chelsea and CONCACAF champions Monterrey of Mexico.
Corinthians coach Tite is now in his second stint at the club, having made his return in the second half of 2010.
Only three players have left the side that won the crown: defender Leandro Castan, midfielder Alex and striker Liedson.
A team from South American hasn’t won this tournament since Brazil’s Internacional upset Barcelona 1-0 in the 2006 final.
There is a large Japanese-Brazilian community working in the automobile factories near Toyota. Along with the large contingent of Corinthians fans that travelled from Brazil, they will make the South American champions the crowd favorite as well.
“There are high expectations from our fans,” Tite said. “We have one million of them and need to keep them happy. Some have left their jobs and families to be here so we need to perform well for them.”
African champion Al-Ahly advanced to today’s match after beating Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
The Egyptian side is appearing in its fourth Club World Cup.
Coach Hossam El-Badry admitted that he did not have deep information about Corinthians.
“I’ve not had much time yet to really study Corinthians, but my team put in a really good performance against Sanfrecce and now we’ve got to turn our focus to the Brazilian side,” he said. “So that’s the first thing I need to do. I know it’s a big team, a strong team but I have DVDs. I will study them from today, to do my homework.”
Against Hiroshima, Al Ahly was wearing black armbands in memory of fans who died in the Port Said stadium disaster in February. The national football league was suspended and is yet to restart after the incident which resulted in the death of 74 fans.
The Egyptian giants have won a bronze medal in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2006.
The Red Devils have won seven CAF Champions League titles, four African Cup Winners’ Cup and four CAF Super Cup titles, to hold continental records in all three competitions.
Asians meet for fifth spot
TOYOTA, Japan - AFP
It may be a battle of losers but Asian bragging rights are at stake when South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai faces Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima in a potentially feisty Club World Cup clash today.
The prize for the winners of the match between AFC Champions League holders Ulsan and J-League winners in Toyota will be fifth place at the intercontinental tournament after they both suffered quarterfinal defeats on Dec. 9.
“There’s a big rivalry here and we want to show that Japan’s football is better than Korea’s,” Hiroshima winger Mihael Mikic said.
“We play good football and they (Ulsan) play physical, even a little dirty,” the former Croatia youth international added, adding some spice to the build-up to the game.
The match comes after tensions surfaced between the national teams of the two countries, giants of Asian football, at the London Olympics.
Last week FIFA suspended South Korean’s Park Jong-Woo for two international matches over a post-match political gesture at the Games.
Park, who was also fined, had been excluded from the awards ceremony for his country’s bronze medal win in August after he held up a sign reading “Dokdo is our land” while celebrating the Korean team’s 2-0 victory over Japan.
The Seoul-controlled islands, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, are the subject of a decades-old territorial dispute.