Al Jazira striker Ali Mabkhout says the club are now playing not only for themselves but for the whole of the UAE after he set up a dream semi-final with Real Madrid in the Fifa Club World Cup.
The UAE forward, who found the net a record 33 times in 25 Arabian Gulf League matches last season to fire his side to a second top-flight title, grabbed one of the most important goals of his career on Saturday, helping Jazira seal a 1-0 win against Urawa Red Diamonds at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City.
The 52nd-minute strike, a fine finish from Romarinho’s superb through-ball, clinched a last-four clash against Madrid at the same venue on Wednesday. It ensured also that Jazira became the first Emirati team to reach that stage of the competition.
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Next up are Madrid, with the reigning Spanish, European and Club World Cup champions set to arrive in the Emirates on Sunday night. On Saturday, Zinedine Zidane's men thumped Sevilla 5-0 to move third in the Primera Liga and within five points of leaders Barcelona.
Looking ahead to the semi-final, Mabkhout said: “I’m so happy to score in a big important win and that we play against Real Madrid. This is a big victory for us and we hope we play well against Madrid.
“It’s good for us, for the country. We don’t just play as Jazira now, we play for the UAE. We did not want to think about Madrid, but now we can. We know they are one of the best teams in the world and this is incentive for all the players.”
Asked what was the secret to defeating Urawa, the highly fancied Japanese side who two weeks ago won the Asian Champions League, Mabkhout added: “We believe in ourselves. We respect Urawa, but that does not mean we could not beat them. We believed we can win, we played very strong and we were lucky sometimes in the game.”