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
0

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.”


Egypt, South Africa bid to be replacement African Cup host

Updated 16 December 2018
0

Egypt, South Africa bid to be replacement African Cup host

  • The executive committee will now decide who is awarded the tournament at a meeting in Dakar, Senegal on Jan. 9
  • Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights last month because of delays with its preparations and a violent separatist movement

Egypt and South Africa are the countries bidding to replace Cameroon as host of next year’s African Cup of Nations and the winner will have just five months to put preparations in place for the continent’s top soccer tournament.
CAF announced the bids late Saturday — the deadline to submit was end of Friday — and said that its executive committee will decide the new host at a meeting in Dakar, Senegal on Jan. 9.
That date, which was pushed back from Dec. 31, gives the host precious little time to get ready for a tournament which is scheduled to kick off June 15 and is the first to be increased from 16 to 24 teams.
Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights last month because of delays with its preparations and a violent separatist movement close to two tournament host cities in the western part of the country.
Although Egypt and South Africa have the best soccer infrastructure in Africa, organizing at such short-notice still promises to be a challenge.
The African soccer body also needs to decide if South Africa, should its bid win, would automatically qualify as the new host. The South African team still hasn’t qualified and plays its last qualifier in March. Egypt has qualified.
CAF also hasn’t said if Cameroon, the defending African champion, will retain its place at the tournament as the original host.
African Cup hosting has been a major headache for CAF, with four successive tournaments now switched from their initial host countries. South Africa hosted in 2013 when it replaced war-torn Libya, Equatorial Guinea stood in for Morocco in 2015, and Gabon replaced Libya again last year.
The Cup of Nations is played every two years, not every four like other major tournaments.
The bids by Egypt and South Africa came after Morocco, long considered the front-runner to replace Cameroon, surprisingly said last week it wouldn’t put itself forward. Morocco had been widely touted as a replacement after it was a candidate to host the 2026 World Cup. It lost out for the World Cup to a joint United States-Mexico-Canada bid.
Egypt said as recently as last month that it would not enter the race and compete with the expected bid from fellow North African nation Morocco. Morocco’s decision not to bid appears to have led to Egypt’s change of heart.
Egypt is a powerhouse of African soccer, with its national team a record seven-time Cup of Nations winner. An African Cup in Egypt would also provide an intriguing story-line for Mohamed Salah, the Egypt forward who is currently the continent’s best player and a hero in his home country.
But Egypt’s recent political turmoil might work against the country’s bid. Egypt has seen violence and upheaval ever since the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak. The political crisis also regularly spilled over onto the soccer field and the lowest point came when more than 70 people were killed in a riot at a game in the northern city of Port Said in 2012. It was one of world soccer’s worst stadium riots.
Port Said was floated as one of the proposed 2019 tournament venues by Egyptian officials, alongside another Mediterranean city, Alexandria, Suez and the capital Cairo.
Egypt’s bid does have logistical advantages for CAF, though, with the African soccer body based in Cairo.
South Africa hosted the continent’s first World Cup in 2010 and has world-class stadiums left over from that tournament.
The South African Football Association said it had been approached by CAF in recent weeks to bid for 2019, suggesting Africa’s most developed economy is the preferred choice for organizers.
But the South African Football Association was still seeking permission from government to bid on the day of the deadline on Friday and it’s unclear how much money the country is willing to commit having spent big on soccer tournaments in recent years.
CAF also has problems with future editions of its showpiece event, with African soccer president Ahmad saying in a media interview it had offered the 2021 edition to Cameroon. That provoked an angry response and a legal challenge from Ivory Coast, which was initially awarded the tournament and says it still considers itself the host.
CAF, under former president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, awarded hosting rights for three tournaments at the same meeting in 2014 — Cameroon in 2019, Ivory Coast in 2021 and Guinea in 2023. Questions were immediately raised over all those countries’ ability to hold the tournament.
Outside of a few exceptions, most African countries are not prepared to host a major soccer tournament and the African Cup often gets by on last-minute preparations and the most basic infrastructure.