Egypt football giant al-Ahly has been preparing for its first game of the FIFA Club World Cup 2013 against China’s Guangzhou Evergrande on Dec. 14.
Football experts seem confident about the club’s opening match against the Chinese team, due to take place in Morocco.
“Al-Ahly has more chances to win against China’s Guangzhou Evergrande,” Hany Hathout, a sports presenter on the state owned radio station, Youth and Sports Radio, told Al Arabiya News.
“They have the advantage of playing in a fellow North African country, where they have played many times in the 1990s, unlike the Chinese. [Al-Ahly] are more familiar with the stadium and can expect better support from the Arab audience,” Hathout added.
However, Mohammad Youssef, al-Ahly’s head coach is more cautious and is not letting his guard down before the club’s first match.
“Our Chinese opponents are strong. They won the domestic league and the Asian Cup,” Youssef told FIFA.com.
“Their squad boasts three excellent foreigners, two Brazilians and an Argentinean player, and they have seven players who are members of China's national team,” he added.
Some al-Ahly supporters are doubtful about the outcome of the game, “ especially as the Chinese team is characterized by its rapidity,” which might leave al-Ahly in the lurch, Mamdouh Eid, the club’s youth consultant and executive manager of the al-Ahly fans committee, told Al Arabiya News.
The winner of the semi-final game will face the European champion Bayern Munich on Dec. 17th.
Next week’s FIFA Club World Cup game will be a new test for the eight-time champions of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Youssef has named 23 players to represent al-Ahly during the game.
The 23-man squad comes as “no surprise” to Egyptian football specialists.
“All the usual players are on the list except Ahmed Abdul Zaher who was suspended [during a] al-Ahly’s board meeting in November after he displayed the Raba’a sign during a match,” Hathout said.
Ahmed Abou Zaher was suspended after he raised the four-finger Raba’a sign while celebrating his goal against the South African Orlando Pirates in the African Champions League final.
Despite injuries, duo Abdallah al-Said and Walid Soliman were chosen for the squad. They should not “have any impact on al-Ahly’s first game,” Eid said.
“Both players are currently in a rehabilitation phase and are expected to make their comeback very soon. Maybe on the 14th to face Guangzhou Evergrande,” he added.
In a warm up for their first game, al-Ahly will meet with Morocco’s AS Salé for a friendly match.
Al-Ahly, dubbed the Red Devils by their fans, reached third place in the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup edition in Japan.
The Egyptians will be making a record sixth appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup after winning the African trophy in November at the expense of the Orlando Pirates of South Africa.SHOW MORE