Al Jazira can use their excellent Fifa Club World Cup performance as a platform to turn around their season, according to midfielder Mbark Boussoufa.
The UAE champions exceeded expectations significantly on debut in the tournament, finishing fourth after a punishing schedule that included four matches in 10 days.
Beset by a number of key absentees coming into the event, a youthful Jazira opened on December 6 with victory in the play-off with tournament veterans Auckland City, before defeating Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds in the quarter-final.
Then, in the semis, they led against Real Madrid, the reigning Spanish, European and world champions, only to be outdone by Gareth Bale's 81st-minute winner to lose the match 2-1. Jazira brought their Club World Cup to a close on Saturday with a disappointing 4-1 defeat to Mexico's Pachuca.
However, Boussoufa said the club can build on a largely impressive campaign when the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) resumes next month and the Asian Champions League begins in February. At present, Jazira are fifth in the AGL standings at the halfway stage, nine points off the summit, although they do have a game in hand.
“It’s very important,” Boussoufa, 33, said. “First of all, it’s important because of the experience. You have to understand that a lot of players didn’t play at this level. So just to play on this level is good for the players, good to have this experience to take in your backpack for the future, especially for some young players.
“Overall we did a very good job, the players did a good job. I’m very proud of them. Nobody expected us to come this far in the tournament so well done to everybody.
“We could’ve done a little bit better in this last game, but I think the 4-1 is a little too much. I’m disappointed myself. It’ll just take a little bit of time and we can work it all out.
"We can be proud of ourselves and the young players will understand that. We can only learn as a team from this. OK, I have experience, but even I learn every day. So I’m very positive about the future.”
Boussoufa blamed Saturday’s heavy defeat in the third-place play-off on exhaustion - Pachuca scored three times in the final half hour - as Jazira’s busy fixture list caught up finally with them.
The Moroccan, who was battling cramp and said he was right “on the limit” immediately following the loss, claimed the team were fortunate to escape without any long-term damage.
“This intensity at this level, four games in 10 days is absurd,” he said. “It’s dangerous also because you can pull any muscle at any time. But we did it and luckily we came out of it without any major injuries. That’s the most important thing."
Looking at the tournament as a whole, Boussoufa added: “Incredible. Everything was very positive except for the last 30 minutes, for the rest we did a very good job. We wanted a little bit more, we wanted that third place.
"But it’s understandable with the fatigue and everything. Like I said, we’re just very proud of ourselves. We wanted to do better but, ok, well done to everybody.”