Ten Cate: Bronze medal the goal for Al Jazira in Pachuca clash after Real Madrid heroics at Fifa Club World Cup
The Arabian Gulf League side take on the Mexican side in the third-place play-off with their manager proud of how they have performed in the tournament.
Henk ten Cate says his Al Jazira players will overcome the effects of heavy fatigue as they bid to conclude their remarkable Fifa Club World Cup campaign with a bronze medal.
The UAE champions, who have never before competed in the tournament, face Mexico’s Pachuca on Saturday at Zayed Sports City in the play-off for third place.
Thus far, Jazira have defeated nine-time entrants Auckland City and Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds, before losing narrowly to Real Madrid in the semi-final on Wednesday.
Jazira were close to going 2-0 up on the night against the reigning Spanish, European and world champions, when Mbark Boussoufa was a fraction offside as he pushed forward to place Ali Mabkhout's pass into the net. Madrid rebounded to win 2-1.
On Friday, 24 hours out from his team’s final Club World Cup assignment, Ten Cate spoke about how the Madrid match had impacted him this week.
“The day after was, for me, a bad day,” he said. “After the match maybe I was relieved that we didn’t get whipped. But the day after you realise you were so close. And then the disappointment starts.
“I was really disappointed, funny enough, and I know it sounds ridiculous. But I was. Because we were so very close. What if Boussoufa would’ve stayed 10 centimetres onside and we would have been winning 2-0? It’s all those questions that come out.
“But now, looking back so far to the tournament, it’s an amazing experience for us. And we made a lot of people proud. This is what I’m most happy about.”
Ten Cate is hoping for one final push from his players on Saturday. They take on four-time entrants Pachuca at Zayed Sports City stadium as the precursor to the final between Madrid and Brazil’s Gremio, where they will attempt to conclude a long 10 days as the tournament’s third-best team.
Ten Cate conceded that even he had not expected to be in this position, although he vowed his team will do everything in their power to end the event on a high.
“That I’ve been here four times already is also a surprise,” he said. “But since I’m here we would like to go for the win. That we had Madrid with their backs against the wall is a very big compliment to my players. We worked extremely well. Now we’re facing the fourth match in 10 days, so it’s really tough on us.
“Of course the players are tired. But we have a very big sign in the dressing room that the mind is stronger than the body. If you really want to achieve something then, with a lot of willpower and determination and hard luck, you can win big matches. This is what we’re going to try to do, to win another big match.
“My players showed their character in the first three games and I’m more than 100 per cent positive that they will show their character also in the last game. And especially when there’s a medal at stake.
“The mind is stronger than the body. If you really want something, and if you are willing to work hard and sacrifice for it, you can achieve big things. And this is what my team have demonstrated already. And they will show, regardless of the result, in the last game tomorrow.
“So we’re to do everything possible, and my players will definitely do that, to get a medal. Because this is something they can look back on for the rest of their lives.”
While Jazira's run has been built upon a clear team ethic, striker Mabkhout is seen as one of the side's standout players. The UAE international, top scorer in last season’s Arabian Gulf League, notched the winner in the quarter-final against Urawa.
When asked if the Abu Dhabi club had received any offers for the frontman on the back of his performances this month, Ten Cate replied: “I don’t know, I’m not Al Jazira, I’m just the coach.
"I wouldn’t be surprised. For me, watching him against the best team in the world, if I look at his movements and the way he’s connecting to the game, I think he can play at a way higher than he’s doing now, for sure. He has all the abilities.
“It is always a problem for this side of the world. It’s a cultural problem. But football, tactically, technically speaking, I don’t see any problem for him. He is really good. He is.”
Meanwhile, Pachuca manager Diego Alonso underlined the importance of Saturday’s play-off, saying: “We started from zero and now we are [continental] champions. Maybe we can be third, among the three best teams in the world. That would be beautiful. It is a huge challenge and I hope we can get it. It could be fantastic.”
Published: December 15, 2017 07:47 PM