Real Madrid jet to the UAE to take on Al-Jazira in Club World Cup

Al-Jazira's Ali Mabkhout celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Urawa Reds to set up a clash with Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2017

Real Madrid jet to the UAE to take on Al-Jazira in Club World Cup

ABU DHABI: Real Madrid arrive in the Middle East this week bidding for their third Club World Cup title in four seasons and looking to increase the dominance of Spanish teams.
Madrid won the title in 2014 and 2016, while Barcelona were the winners in 2009, 2011 and 2015. The Catalan club also was runner-up in 2006. European clubs have won the competition nine out of the last 10 times.
Madrid will play Al-Jazira in the semi-final in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday after the host team beat Japan’s Urawa Reds, the Asian Champions League winners, 1-0 on Saturday. Madrid warmed up for the continental competition by beating Seville 5-0 on Saturday night, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice.
“We’ve now got the Club World Cup and it’s just as important to us as all the other competitions,” Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez said. “We’re aiming to win it all and we’ll be going all out to do so.”
But the seven-team tournament has historically received little attention from the top European clubs and their fans. It comes in the middle of the European season and usually disrupts the teams’ schedules.
Madrid will have their league game at Leganes postponed, and their preparation for the much-anticipated clasico against Barcelona on Dec. 23 will likely be affected.
Gremio and Madrid enter the Club World Cup only in the semi-finals and are fancied to set up a tasty final.
Gremio are coached by former Brazil forward Renato Gaucho, a star for several Brazilian clubs in the 1980s and 90s who made headlines across Brazil not long ago after saying that “for sure” he played better than Ronaldo.
“I wanted to see Cristiano Ronaldo playing for the teams that I played in my time, many not paying salaries for three or four straight months, and to be a champion like I was,” the brash coach told ESPN Brasil earlier this year. “I wanted to be playing for Real Madrid today, playing once a week, on great fields, and with the teammates that Ronaldo has. I really wanted to see that.”
The straightforward coach said that there is “no doubt that Ronaldo is a great player,” but the Madrid star is “not as versatile” as he was when he played.
“Ronaldo has a lot of strength, he doesn’t have a lot of technique,” said the 55-year-old. “This current generation didn’t see me play. I guarantee that those who saw me play would have a different opinion (about who was a better player).”
Gaucho also attracted headlines recently when he said that he does not have to study soccer to be a good manager.
“Those who need to learn can go study in Europe, those who don’t can go to the beach,” he said after leading Gremio to the Brazilian Cup title last year. “Those who know football will always know it. Those who don’t will have to go study it.”

LIVE: Saudi Arabia 1 Egypt 1 - Mohamed Salah scores, Al-Faraj equalizes

Updated 3 min 37 sec ago

LIVE: Saudi Arabia 1 Egypt 1 - Mohamed Salah scores, Al-Faraj equalizes

6.40PM: The Green Falcons have had a couple of free-kicks in promising positions in the last 5 minutes...both have been wasted, however. 10 minutes left...

6.30PM: That early bright start to this half is fading for Saudi Arabia as Egypt look to take control of the game, and Hector Cuper urges them on.

But what's this? Another two top saves from El-Hadary keeps Saudi Arabia at bay. They're not done just yet...

6.24PM: That's the end of the World Cup for Mohsen as the Egyptian No. 9 is replaced by Ramadan Sobhi.

Meanwhile, Aburadeah Aseri comes on for Bahebri for the Green Falcons.

25 minutes left.

6.21PM: Both of Egypt's goals at this World Cup have been scored by Salah, but Trezeguet came awfully close to joining the party as his towering header flashes just past the post with Al-Mosailem in the Saudi goal well beaten.

6.15PM: The intensity has just dropped out of this game now, and is beginning to look like the "dead rubber" we thought it would be. Saudi Arabia seem content to knock it around the middle just now, and Egypt are happy to let them.

6.08PM: Much better from Saudi Arabia who are attacking with a lot more intent at the beginning of the second half, they're pinning Egypt back into their own half at the moment.

5.45PM - HALFTIME: What a story for Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, who pulled off a fantastic save to keep Egypt ahead. Magical moment. But the second penalty gives Saudi Arabia hope for the second half. 

The Salah goal opened the game up much more, and the Green Falcons produced some much better football to create opportunities. 

One last push in the second half could see them claim a famous victory.

5.48PM: After VAR review, the penalty is confirmed and Salman Al-Faraj buries it! GOAL FOR SAUDI ARABIA! At last...


5.40PM: PENALTY TO SAUDI ARABIA - And Fahad misses it...the wait for a goal at this World Cup goes on for the Green Falcons!

5.36PM: Salman has a glorious chance for Saudi Arabia, but his shot inside the box is blocked on the line and goes out for a corner. Green Falcons' best chance of the game.

5.30PM: That's given the thousands of Egyptian fans in this Volgograd Arena something to cheer about, and they're the ones making all the noise now.

5.22PM: GOAL - Who else? Mohamed Salah with a wonderful touch chips it into the net to give the Pharoahs a 1-0 lead...

5.20PM: As we've seen for the majority of this tournament, Saudi Arabia keep the ball reasonably well in the first two-thirds ... but they are just lacking that quality needed in the final third to turn possession into goals.

5.12PM: There's one glimmer of hope about this World Cup for Saudi Arabia - according to the statisticians, they boast some one of the best passing accuracy figures at the tournament. Having made 1,107 passes in their two games before today, they boasted an accuracy of 83.9%, just behind Spain on 91.3%. Iran were at the bottom with 61.3%.

5.07PM: Saudi Arabia win their first corner of the match... and it is comfortably cleared by the Egyptian defense. But that was better from the Green Falcons.

5.00PM: Here we go, Saudi Arabia and Egypt's final game of the 2018 World Cup is under way...

4.50PM: Al-Ahli's Alexis Ruano is watching the game and is hoping for a Saudi Arabia win by the looks of it...

Meanwhile, the Egypt fans are in good voice in the stands too...

4.40PM: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi spoke before the match: "It's very easy with hindsight, after the results that we have had, to come up with situations that you'd like to change. But unfortunately we coaches have to take most of our decisions before things pan out.

"We've seen that certain concepts work, we've seen alternatives, we've tried to bring in new players as well, and this experience that we have had specifically in the run-up to this World Cup has been very important."

4.15PM: This must be some sort of record because there is 45 minutes to go until kick-off and we have not spoken about Mohamed Salah yet. The news El-Hadary will start and enter the record books has taken the spotlight away from the "Egyptian King". We reckon that both for him and the rest of the squad that will come as a huge relief. Cominginto this match there were reports Salah was ready to quit international football, such was the circus that his playing/non-playing created — the latest episode of which saw both player and team management deny that rumor.

4PM: EL-HADARY SET TO MAKE HISTORY —  So the last matches of Group A have arrived and while hosts Russia will be battling it out with Uruguay to see who goes though as group winners, the Green Falcons and Egypt have little but pride to play for in Volgograd.

The big team news that has come out so far is that Hector Cuper has had a heart and will start Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary. That means El-Hadary will become the oldest player ever to appear at a World Cup. Aged 45 years, five months and 12 days he will smash the record currently held by Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was aged 43 years and three days when he played against Japan in Brazil in 2014.

This may be a dead rubber, however, both sides will be keen to get a win. Saudi Arabia are looking for their first World Cup victory since 1994, while the Pharaohs are searching for their first win in the tournament ever.