It was not quite the prize they wanted, but Al Jazira could at least settle for being officially the fourth-best team in the world.
A bit of a stretch, granted, but the Abu Dhabi side concluded the Fifa Club World Cup on Saturday with heads held high, even though a 4-1 defeat to Mexico’s Pachuca in the play-off for third will have hurt.
It should not, though, dull their overall display.
Three days after the prodigious performance against Real Madrid, Jazira tried to summon something extra, but ultimately looked run out on their feet. Understandably exhausted, a fourth match in 10 days proved one step too far.
Fourth is where they finished, outdone at Zayed Sports City stadium by a lively Pachuca, who coped better with any residual fatigue from their own semi-final assignment. Having lost to Gremio on Tuesday, albeit in extra time, Diego Alonso’s men had another day to recover.
“I am sitting here and I am really proud of what the guys did,” said manager Henk ten Cate afterwards. “Before the tournament if anyone said we’d play for the third and fourth place, I would have started laughing.
“You could see after one hour the tank was empty. This game was one bridge too far. They did their upmost. But it is simple fact of the matter, and I’m not looking for excuses, that the players were very tired.”
That was obvious.
Pachuca were fresher than Jazira, creating a number of first-half chances before Jonathan Urretaviscaya put his side finally ahead. He had more than a helping hand.
There were only eight minutes left to half time. Yet the usually assured Mbark Boussoufa was caught on the ball, teammate Saif Khalfan failed to clear when he really should have, and Urretaviscaya outpaced the despairing Fares Juma to finish coolly past Khaled Al Senaani in the Jazira goal.
Pachuca had gone close a few times already, even striking the woodwork. Jazira, meanwhile, had threatened once, through Ali Mabkhout on the break.
However, to their credit Jazira hauled themselves somehow back into the game.
On 57 minutes, persistent play from Romarinho inside the Pachuca penalty area allowed Boussoufa to shoot on goal, but his effort was repelled on the line by defender Emmanuel Garcia. The ball fell to Khalfan Mubarak, who thrashed his shot through bodies and into the net.
Jazira’s delight was short-lived. Again, they contrived to concede. Right on the hour, Mabkhout gave away possession too cheaply, Pachuca broke and Franco Jara finished first-time past Al Senaani.
Jazira’s bid for bronze was done 11 minutes from time. With Ten Cate's defence too high, substitute Roberto de la Rosa was sent clear, leaving the Pachuca forward to dispatch comfortably his shot into the UAE side's goal.
A few minutes later, it got even worse for Jazira. Salim Rashid was adjudged, somewhat unfairly, to have fouled De la Rosa in the box, with Angelo Sagal making certain the victory from the spot.
And so it finished, 4-1 to Pachuca. Jazira finished fourth at a tournament few gave them little chance in.
Not the result they wanted, but once the dust settles on Club World Cup 2017, Jazira can look back on the whole experience as a hugely positive 10 days.