Al Jazira midfielder Mbark Boussoufa has called for his side to remain fully focused on Saturday’s Fifa Club World Cup quarter-final against Urawa Red Diamonds – even with a potential clash against Real Madrid on the horizon.
Jazira kicked off the event, taking place in the UAE for the third time, on Wednesday with a dogged 1-0 victory against New Zealand's Auckland City in the play-off in Al Ain to enter the tournament proper.
The UAE champions were far from their best, with Auckland, making a record ninth Club World Cup appearance, deserving more from the match.
However, Brazilian forward Romarinho struck in the first half to seal progression for the host representatives.
The goal ensured debutants Jazira, who fielded a number of young players, will contest at least another two matches. Even if they lose to Urawa at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City on Saturday, Hen ten Cate’s side would then go into a play-off for fifth place.
Boussoufa conceded Jazira were at times fortunate to keep 2014 semi-finalists Auckland at bay on Wednesday – goalkeeper Ali Kasheif was named man of the match – but insisted the capital club had achieved their sole target: simply getting past the Oceania champions.
“At least we won – that was the most important thing,” the Moroccan said. “It’s a win that brings a lot of pride. And we get to play the Club World Cup officially.
"That was the most important thing we wanted: to be with all these big champions, because they’re all big champions.
“We were the UAE champions last year when nobody expected us to be. But these are the champions of a continent, which is way bigger.
"We already know against Urawa it’s going to be a very different game, it’s going to be even more difficult. So I’m looking forward to being a part of the tournament, but of course we realise it's going to be very tough. But we’re going to try to do our best and be as good as possible.
“This game was a lot of pressure and Auckland are a team that before have been even to the semi-final. We are champions of the UAE, but not of a continent. We knew it was not going to be easy.
"That’s why everybody is happy with this victory. Let’s hope we can go as far as possible.”
Urawa are first up for Jazira, and should pose a considerable threat. The Japanese side come into the tournament on a high having only two weeks ago confirmed their place by defeating Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the Asian Champions League final.
Understandably, Boussoufa is intent on thinking purely about Urawa, despite the reward of a meeting with defending champions Madrid in the last four on December 13.
“We need to focus on Saturday,” he said. “I’m not even talking about Madrid. Because you’ve got to respect opponents. These are champions of a continent, these are not easy games.
"And especially us, we’re coming as a champion, totally new, never played on this level, some guys never even played 10 competition games in a row and are already at a Club World Cup tournament.
"Like I said, it’s something new for us and we know the Japanese team is going to be a very difficult game.”
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Asked if they could use the possible match-up with Madrid as motivation for Urawa, Boussoufa said: “Yeah, but you play against the champion of Asia. If you're already overlooking this team… we could not even overlook Auckland, with all due respect. So how can you overlook the champion of Asia?
“It’s going to be a very difficult game. Speaking personally, I’m not thinking about Real Madrid because I know the next game we have to be at our best, best, best to beat this team.
"I believe in our team, but you cannot think already about the next game.”
Meanwhile, Boussoufa implored more supporters to attend Saturday’s game after little more than 4,000 turned up at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
“We hope we get some more fans,” he said. "Because we’re playing in a Club World Cup. We want to thank all the fans who came today that supported us, but we were hoping for more, of course.
"Because at the end of the day we play in the UAE, play a Fifa Club World Cup, so I hope in Abu Dhabi there’s going to be more fans. I expect more fans, so we can use all the support we get.”
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