Sanfrecce Hiroshima disposed of joint record appearance holders in the FIFA World Club Cup Auckland City in the play-off round last week and have now booked themselves a place in the quarter-finals against the team who share said record with the New Zealanders.
Egyptian side Al-Ahly are the most successful side on the African continent and after defeating Esperance of Tunisia in the African Champions League final they qualified for their fourth ever appearance in the competition.
Hossam El-Badry’s side are hoping to go one better than their 2006 third place finish by making it all the way to the final. Their last foray into the competition was in 2008 when they were dumped out at this stage by Mexican side Pachuca and hope will be high that they can go further against the J.League champions.
Sanfrecce have a technically superior side who retain possession well but the fast attacking display of Al-Ahly will certainly pose them serious threat.
Al-Ahly are still recovering from the Port Said Stadium massacre in February that saw last season’s Egyptian Championship abandoned. 79 people lost their lives that day the majority of which were Al-Ahly fans and led to several high-profile retirements from the sport.
However many of those players have returned and a strong core of players still play for the Egyptian side and will hope to use the Club World Cup as a means toward showing what Egyptian football is really all about.
The team relies heavily on its main star players. Winner of the 2008 African Footballer of the Year Mohamed Aboutrika, captain and former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Hossam Ghaly and defender Wael Gomaa.
They are ably assisted by the free-scoring striker Geddo and another frontman Emad Moteab; both have been regular goalscorer’s for the club in the past few years. Veteran Mohamed Barakat is still a threat from the wing and centre-midfielder Hossam Ashour is perhaps their most undervalued Egyptian international. He controls the tempo of the game from the centre of the park and puts in the doggy work when necessary.
The team, like Sanfrecce, consists mainly of home-grown talent and their threat is not only from the known forces; they have incredible pace from the full-back positions and will look to exploit Sanfrecce in that area throughout.
What can you expect from Al-Ahly? Nothing less than 100 per cent springs to mind. It will be a tight match between the two but the combination of experience and international quality should be enough to see Al-Ahly through to the semi-final where they would meet Chelsea.
What do you expect from Al-Ahly at this year’s competition?
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