Al-Ain hero Marcus Berg bullish ahead of FIFA Club World Cup final against Real Madrid

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Swedish international Marcus Berg will only be satisfied if he and his Al-Ain teammates get their hands on the trophy on Saturday. (AFP)
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Updated 21 December 2018

Al-Ain hero Marcus Berg bullish ahead of FIFA Club World Cup final against Real Madrid

  • UAE champions to face European giants in winner-takes-all clash in Abu Dhabi.
  • Real are strong favorites to make it three FIFA Club World Cup titles in a row.

LONDON: For some the opportunity to play in a big final against Real Madrid would be enough, but for Al-Ain star man Marcus Berg only victory against the reigning FIFA Club World Cup champions will be enough.
The UAE side have impressed and shocked in equal measure on their way to an unexpected place in Saturday's final in Abu Dhabi. The only side in the tournament not to be continental champions “The Boss” were one of the underdogs two weeks ago. But victories against Team Wellington, Esperance de Tunis and River Plate have propelled them into the showpiece match against the European giants.
Once again few are giving them much of a chance against Real, but Berg has insisted that the UAE champions can prove they are more than a match for Gareth Bale and Co.
“The team deserve to be in the final,” the Swedish midfielder said.
“Once again we proved the club’s worth to everyone. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far as our performances have been really impressive.
“We’re in the final on merit.
“This was our dream from the very beginning, from the moment we’d won the UAE league title. But our opponents were all continental champions so, on paper at least, we weren’t expected to get this far in this competition. However, we’ve shown everyone what we can do on the pitch.”

Al-Ain players celebrate after their shock win over River Plate that took them to Saturday's final against Real Madrid. 

Such fighting talk is all well and good, but Berg and his Al-Ain teammates’ confidence is more than justified. From the very first match they have been up against it, but overcome every obstacle in their way. That opener against Wellington saw the side go 3-0 down within the first 44 minutes. But they came storming back to draw 3-3 in 90 minutes before going on to win 4-3 in the subsequent penalty shootout.
They then took that momentum into the next clash against the African Champions League winners Esperance, winning 3-0.

That set up a mouth-watering semifinal against the Copa Libertadores champions and Argentine powerhouses River Plate. 2-1 down after 16 minutes the UAE champions came back to draw 2-2 in normal time before once again showing their steel to win 5-4 on penalties.
That clash, as much as anything, illustrates why Real would be wrong to underestimate Al-Ain.
The run to tonight’s final, however, does mean Berg and Co. will start the match with more sets of tired legs than that of their illustrious opponents, who have made the final after just one match, a relatively easy 3-1 win over Kashima Antlers. That is something the Swede is only too aware of.
“We know the final is going to be extremely difficult, but we still aim to win the title,” Berg said.

Marcelo and Co. await Al-Ain in the final. The Champions League winners are going for their fourth FIFA Club World Cup title. 

“The difficulty lies in the physical aspect, as we’ve played three games in a short time span, and that might affect us. I’m sure it will be a difficult match, but we need to recover, be positive, and summon all our powers in the final.”
That positivity will be key if Al-Ain are to shock one more time and become the first Middle Eastern team to win the FIFA Club World Cup. But Berg is not ruling anything out, pointing to fellow UAE side Al-Jazira’s close running of Real in last year’s semifinal, a match they lost 2-1 having taken 1-0 lead before half-time.
“Real Madrid are a powerful side full of household names and are certainly favorites,” he said.
“But anything is possible in football. Last year Al-Jazira played well against them here. If we perform well, we might have a chance.”

LIVE: Saudi Cup - historic day of racing gets underway in Riyadh

Updated 4 min 46 sec ago

LIVE: Saudi Cup - historic day of racing gets underway in Riyadh

  • Follow all the day's action with Arab News

RIYADH: The day is finally here, the long-awaited Saudi Cup day of top-class racing gets underway at the King Abdul Aziz Racetrack on Saturday in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.

The day consists of eight races with a total purse of $29.2 million.

Prize money for the main event and final race of the day, the Saudi Cup, will be a record-breaking $20 million, with the winner taking home $10 million and the rest of the field sharing the rest.

Follow Arab News' coverage below...(all times GMT)


13:05 - RESULT - Port Lions wins the Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup, the first ever turf race run in Saudi Arabia, ridden by A De Vries in the first race of the day - bit of a shock there, as Deirdre was the heavily-fancied horse before the off!

12:30 - We're 30 minutes away from the off in the first race of the day - here's a look at the Grandstand and the hospitality enclosure at Riyadh's King Abdul Aziz Racetrack. And some of the high fashion stakes on show as well...

11:50 - Fans treated to one of the many displays of Saudi culture that will be on show throughout the day...

11:30 - More happy Arab News readers with their copies of the special Saudi Cup souvenir edition of the newspaper...(AN Photos/Huda Bashatah)

11:10 - A fantastic video from the Saudi Cup official Twitter page shows jockey Yutake Take on board his mount in one of the Jockeys Challenge races on Friday!

10:45 - Here's your race card for today's racing (including the breaks for prayer) - the action starts at 4:00pm KSA time (1:00pm GMT) and the big one is scheduled to start at 8:40pm local time (5:40pm GMT)...

10:30 - As we wait for the fans to file in ahead of the first race of the day at 4:00pm Saudi time, check out a gallery by Arab News' Basheer Alzain Saleh and Huda Bashatah of yesterday's Kingdom Day...

GALLERY: Kingdom Day meeting, Saudi Cup in Riyadh

09:50 - Yesterday saw a host of male and female jockeys get a feel for the tracks at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack in the Jockeys Challenge races (read a report here) - but it was also a chance for the fans to get a feel for all the activities available away from the racing for the whole family at the track...(AN Photos/Huda Bashatah)

09:30 - We've got the latest turf track update - and the official Saudi Cup feed are saying today's going is Good to Firm on that immaculate-looking stretch of grass. It's an exciting day for Saudi racing fans as some fantastic horses will be running on the turf and dirt tracks today...

09:15 - Don't forget, you can read Arab News' coverage of the formation of the event and the build-up to today's historic race - as well as an account of yesterday's action on Kingdom Day - in our dedicated spotlight here...

09:00 - The gates have opened and we're officially kicking off the day's coverage!