Zoran Mamic warns Al-Ain they face tough task against River Plate in FIFA Club World Cup semifinal

El-Shahat scores the second in Al-Ain's 3-0 quarterfinal clash against Tunisian outfit, Esperance de Tunis. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Zoran Mamic warns Al-Ain they face tough task against River Plate in FIFA Club World Cup semifinal

  • UAE side to face Argentine giants in last-four clash on home ground on Tuesday.
  • Winner likely to play Real Madrid in the final.

LONDON: Al-Ain have been told they have to turn up with their A-game against River Plate tomorrow or they can forget about a dream final against Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup.
That is the message from the side’s coach Zoran Mamic, who saw “The Boss” beat Esperance Sportive de Tunis 3-0 on Saturday to book their semifinal spot against the Argentine giants.
Goals from Mohamed Ahmed, Hussein El-Shahat and Bandar Mohammed gave the hosts an emphatic victory over the African champions at their Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
But Mamic is only too aware that beating the champions of Tunisia is one thing, taking on the Copa Libertadores winners is of another proportion entirely.
“River one of the biggest teams in the world, with a great history and we are playing against them in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup, but we have to enjoy it, we have to be proud and we have to make it difficult for River,” the Croatian said.
“We watched the games against Boca and they are very very strong, we just have to be better to survive this game.”
In Al-Ain’s favor, bar playing at home, is the fact that Mamic has a good knowledge of River and Argentine football, and he, like many football fans around the world, was a keen spectator of the Copa Libertadores final when the Buenos Aires side beat their arch-rivals Boca Juniors.
“It’s a great story for me, before I became a coach I worked as a sporting director for Dynamo Zagreb and I would travel to watch players. My first time in Argentina, first match was Boca vs. River, that was maybe 10-12 years ago,” Mamic revealed.
However, anyone thinking Al-Ain will be overawed by their opponents and the occasion had better think again.
“(River’s Marcelo Gallardo) is a great coach, they have done very well and he obviously knows how to talk to his players, but they have to respect us, we have shown we can play good football. I’m sure it will be an interesting game and I hope the stadium will be full,” Mamic said. “I also hope some Argentinian fans come because they create a good atmosphere. River had a great season, they won the Copa, the coach from River Plate cannot be bad.”
Al-Ain very nearly did not make it to the quarterfinals against Esperance, let alone the last-four clash against River. 3-0 down in their opening match against Team Wellington, a side made up of amateur players, the hosts looked like they were heading for an embarrassing early exit. A remarkable comeback, however, that saw Marcus Berg equalize with just five minutes left, was completed with a 4-3 win on penalties.
“The Wellington game was a difficult one, I didn’t want there to be pressure in that match, I wanted them to enjoy it but there was pressure because everyone was saying Wellington wasn’t a strong team and we should win easily and I think we felt that pressure. Wellington started, scored perfect goals and we were shocked,” Mamic said. “Thankfully we found a way to turn things round.”
Swedish international Berg will be a key man for Al-Ain tomorrow despite suffering with a virus over the past few days. Mamic is hopeful he will be back to 100 percent and able to start against River.
“For these past four days he has been really struggling with fever and today is the first day he has been feeling better, hopefully in the next three days he will recover to start the River game,” Mamic said.
There is little doubt “The Boss” will need Berg to be fit and at his best if they are to pull off a shock and beat the South American champions. Also key could be the Al-Ain fans packed into the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Mamic hopes they can act as a 12th player.
“I wanted to thank our fans for their great support and making a great ambience in the stadium, it’s a pleasure to play under these conditions, a pleasure for the players, a pleasure for the coaching staff and I’m sure it will be a good game,” Mamic said.
“Against River we most be focused, motivated which won’t be a problem, River are favorites but favorites don’t always win.”


Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

Updated 26 June 2019
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Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

  • The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy

RENNES, France: Tears were still flowing from Saki Kumagai’s eyes more than 30 minutes later.
With victorious Dutch rivals passing her on the way out of the stadium, Japan’s captain seemed to find solace in speaking about the penalty long after it cost her team a place in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
With Tuesday night’s game entering the 90th minute locked at 1-1, Kumagai’s outstretched left arm blocked the shot Vivianne Miedema had aimed into the right side of the net.
“It had my hand for sure,” Kumagai said. “It’s difficult to accept but it’s also sad. I know that is football.”
Referee Melissa Borjas pointed to the penalty spot and Lieke Martens netted her second goal of the game in the 90th minute to seal a 2-1 victory that sent the Netherlands into the quarterfinals for the first time.
“We have made history,” Martens said. “I’m not usually taking the penalties but I felt really good this game. I asked Sherida Spitse if I could take it and she gave it directly to me and I felt quite relaxed about it.”
The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy on Saturday after going one stage further than their Women’s World Cup debut four years ago.
“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “We were saying, ‘Let’s continue writing history.’“
It is journey’s end for Japan, which won the 2011 tournament and was the runner-up four years later.
The strength of the second-half display counted for nothing.
As befitting a meeting of the Asian and European champions, the game produced some of the slickest action of the World Cup. A backheel flick set up Martens to send the Dutch in front in the 17th minute and Yui Hasegawa equalized in the 43rd to complete a slick passing move.
But the post, crossbar and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal thwarted Japan’s pursuit of a winning goal.
“I think we lacked the clinical edge,” Japan coach Asako Takakura said. “We have to accept the result, we’re defeated, we’re very disappointed and for all the players I feel very sorry for them and frustrated.”
With the last Asian team eliminated, the Women’s World Cup will have a record seven European teams in the quarterfinals. Norway and England meet in Le Havre on Thursday and France takes on the United States the following night. After the Netherlands plays Italy on Saturday, Germany and Sweden will meet.
“It’s really tough to be here,” Netherlands forward Miedema said. “Sometimes it kind of feels like a Euros.”
That is a title already won by this team, thanks to Miedema’s goals in the final two years ago on home soil.
The fans won’t have far to travel for the World Cup quarterfinal, with Valenciennes around two hours’ drive from the Netherlands.
It will be another chance for the orange-clad fans who danced and sang their way in a convoy to the stadium on Tuesday to stamp their mark on this tournament.
They were certainly given a game to savor, and an audacious opening goal.
Martens flicked in the opener after evading her marker to meet a corner and send the ball through the legs of Yuika Sugasawa into the net.
Sugasawa had a quick chance to tie, only to hit the post. But Japan did equalize by completing an intricate move.
Hina Sugita squared across the penalty area to Yuika Sugasawa, who passed back to Mana Iwabuchi on the edge of the penalty area. After holding off Jackie Groenen on the turn, Iwabuchi slipped the ball through to Hasegawa, who was free to delicately dink a shot over Van Veenendaal into the corner of the net.
It was some way to make the most of a first shot on target for a team that failed to score in two of its three group stage games.
But parity nearly didn’t last long.
Miedema received the ball from Shanice van de Sanden but with only Ayaka Yamashita to beat struck straight at the Japan goalkeeper.
Van Veenendaal came to the rescue of the Dutch in the second half by denying Emi Nakajima as Japan chased the winner.
“Japan is a world class team and you saw that today,” Miedema said. “In the second half you can see they have loads of quality on the pitch.”