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UAE’s Al Jazira Gets Crack at Real Madrid

December 11th, 2017 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Arabian Gulf League, Fifa, Football, UAE



Al Jazira of Abu Dhabi and the UAE … will play Real Madrid of Spain in the semifinals of the 2017 Club World Cup on Wednesday night.

In Zayed Sports City, in the capital.

This is the Madrid of Cristiano Ronaldo and 12 European championships.

And the Jazira of Ali Mabkhout, twice champions of the UAE domestic league.

It is a huge moment for Jazira, understandably.

And, to be frank, not the semifinal that Fifa would have preferred.

Jazira had to win twice, beating Oceania champion Auckland City, of New Zealand, and then Asia champion Urawa Red Diamonds in the quarterfinals, both by 1-0 scores.

Urawa, winners of the Asian Champions League, would have been a more interesting opponent for Madrid, but Jazira got in the way of that, thanks to Mabkhout and his 51st-minute goal.

Presumably, that result kille d interest in the Club World Cup in Japan, but it certainly kindled it in the UAE and a full house is expected at Zayed Sports City.

For the first time, a local team will be taking on the world champions — which Madrid can claim to be, having won the 2016 Club World Cup in Japan last year.

Madrid arrives as winners of the European Champions League as well as holders of the La Liga championship.

The team is coached by Zinedine Zidane, of whom you may have heard, and features galacticos like Cristiano Ronaldo, captain Sergio Ramos, Luca Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale — and, well, everyone on the team is very good on what probably is the world’s most popular club (unless it is Barcelona)..

Compare that to Al Jazira, who got into this tournament on the strength of having won the Arabian Gulf League last spring. (Fifa always invites the local champion to play for the Club World Cup.)

I covered Al Jazira a lot, during six-plus years in Abu Dhabi, and the notion of them on the same pitch with Real Madrid … is both ridiculous and sublime.

The match represents a never-to-be-forgotten highlight for Jazira, and Jazira fans will be keen to see Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch, even if it is not a long stay.

It was in October that Ronaldo picked up his fifth player-of-the-year trophy, leaving him tied with Leo Messi in that superduperstar trophy competition.

So, Jazira versus Real … one of the biggest mismatches in the history of Fifa world events. I think we can say that without hurting anyone’s feelings.

What Jazira will hope for is being able to stay on the field with Madrid. Though that may be asking too much, given that Real had five first-half goals against Sevilla, one of Spain’s strongest sides, over the weekend.

Jazira has a couple of solid foreign players, the forward Romarinho of Brazil and midfielder Mbark Boussoufa of Morocco, but the side that will kick off against Madrid will have nine Emiratis playing.

The UAE side may reasonably expect that Madrid will not be at its highest pitch of readiness; they will be saving that for the final, on Saturday, when Madrid probably gets South American champion Gremio of Brazil.

Jazira perhaps will take inspiration from Kashima Antlers, Japan’s local entrant in the 2016 Club World Cup. Kashima actually led Madrid 2-1 in the second half of the final and went to extra time — before Madrid won 4-2.

But, really, end of day? Anything up to 4-0 is OK. Even something ugly, like 7-0, is OK if Jazira keeps Madrid from scoring for, say, half an hour.

The score will not be remembered. Looking across the pitch at Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, will.



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