Wydad Casablanca look for support from 'Arab Community' ahead of showdown with Pachuca in the Fifa Club World Cup
The Moroccan side make their tournament debut against Mexican opposition in the quarter-finals at Zayed Sports City on Saturday.
Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca are counting on a large Arab support to help lift them beyond FC Pachuca in Saturday’s Fifa Club World Cup quarter-final in Abu Dhabi.
The African champions, making their debut in the tournament, take on the Mexicans at Zayed Sports City knowing they go into the match as slight underdogs given their opponents’ experience of the event.
Pachuca, as Concacaf champions the first team to book their place in the UAE, are making their fourth Club World Cup appearance.
However, Wydad are confident they can get past Pachuca and book a semi-final clash next Wednesday with Brazil’s Gremio - especially because of the significant support they expect to receive from the stands.
“Yes, we are lucky to play in the UAE,” said Hussein Amotta, the Wydad manager, on Friday. “I have lots of confidence that, not only the Moroccan community, but the whole Arab community will be supporting Wydad.
"We have seen that among African clubs when we play outside. We hope to do our best and make our supporters happy.”
Wydad are appearing at the Club World Cup having last month defeated Egyptian giants Al Ahly in the African Champions League final. This week, they will be hoping to pull off a surprise and emulate crosstown rivals Raja Casablanca, who reached the final on home soil in 2013 before losing to Bayern Munich.
Amotta, though, insists he is thinking only of what lays ahead.
“We do not compare ourselves to other teams,” he said. “We are coming here with self-confidence and we have our own tactics. I believe we can play with lots of confidence.
"We just arrived yesterday so the players may be a bit tired, but I have confidence in them. They are all excited, especially the young ones as they have an opportunity. I believe they will do their best.
“There is no doubt this is the first experience. It goes without saying it will be an adventure. And it’s an historic opportunity, so what matters is to deal with it normally.
"The spirits are high among the team. We have confidence after winning the African championship, which allows us to face Pachuca even with the absence of some important players."
For Pachuca, a fourth Club World Cup provides the opportunity to build upon what they have achieved before. In 2008 in Japan, the Mexicans reached the semi-finals, but disappointed in 2007 and 2010 by losing their opening matches.
In the latter, in Abu Dhabi, Pachuca were defeated 1-0 by Africa’s TP Mazembe to exit the tournament.
“We’re very excited to play in this tournament,” manager Diego Alonso said. “We have a very good motivation and a chance, because we were champions of the Concacaf federation, to be among the very best teams in the world. It is something incredible.
“This is a motivation and source of pride for us. Our intention is to make a great Club World Cup, to play a great match tomorrow and to do the best we can."
Asked whether he believed Pachuca could become the first Mexican team to contest the final, Alonso said: “To be honest, the motivation for Pachuca is to give the maximum, nobody can take that from us. But we’re now thinking about our first match against the African champions and to do the best. For us the final is not on December 16, our final is on Saturday. The first match, this is our final."
Pachuca goalkeeper Oscar Perez added: “More than pressure, this is actually a very beautiful opportunity and a good chance for us.
"We want to go further, we want to make history. We are starting a new tournament; we are excited about it. And of course, we want to put the name of Mexico high, the name of Pachuca high, take advantage of this tournament and try to make history.”
Updated: December 8, 2017 06:34 PM