When Egypt’s Al-Ahly met the US Seattle Sounders on 4 February in the FIFA Club World Cup, they both knew the winner among them would be facing a premature final boss: Spain’s Real Madrid. Al-Ahly’s narrow 1-0 win over the Sounders sealed the deal – they will be facing the European giants in the semi-finals on 8 February.
Al-Ahly’s game against the Sounders was a tactical one, with the American team dominating in the first half in terms of speed and possession, though not in terms of chances. After having started with the main attacking line on the bench, Al-Ahly manager Marcel Koller subbed in the team’s main forwards in the second half, creating multiple chances and ultimately scoring the decisive goal.
There could be no opponent more formidable for Al-Ahly – or any other club for that matter – as Real Madrid is the most successful team in the tournament’s history, with four titles to their name. However, Al-Ahly has had an unerring run in the tournament so far, beating Oceania champions, New Zealand’s Auckland City, by three goals to none, before moving on to their victory against the Sounders.
The Club World Cup, a men’s football tournament that takes place annually, features the winners of all six football confederations: Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America, and the Confederation of North Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), as well as a team from the host country.
This year the cup is being hosted by Morocco. With African champions Al-Wydad Casa Blanca already being reserved a spot in the tournament due to their status as host country champions, another spot opened for African runners-up, Al-Ahly.
Al-Wydad was eliminated on 4 February after their match against Asian champions, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal. Al-Hilal will be facing South American champions, Brazil’s Flamengo on 7 February for the other semi-final match.
The winners of Al-Ahly versus Real Madrid and Al-Hilal versus Flamengo will meet in the final, whereas the remaining two team will battle for the bronze medal. Both matches are set to be played on 11 February.
Fun fact: The last time Real Madrid and Al-Ahly clashed was in a friendly match played in Cairo in 2001. Al-Ahly won 1-0.