Club World Cup: 'Nothing is impossible' for Urawa Red Diamonds in Man City clash

Asian champions take on European title holders in Jeddah on Tuesday

Urawa Red Diamonds' Alex Schalk celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game against Leon at the 2023 Club World Cup in Jeddah. Getty Images
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Urawa Red Diamonds forward Bryan Linssen has urged his teammates not to show too much respect to treble-winners Manchester City in the Fifa Club World Cup semi-final, reminding them “nothing is impossible” as the Asian champions seek a huge upset in Saudi Arabia.

The Japanese side, three-time champions of their continent, face Pep Guardiola’s English and European champions in the last four in Jeddah on Tuesday night. City, who touched down in the kingdom early on Sunday, enter their first Club World Cup at the semi-final stage.

Urawa, meanwhile, set up the encounter at King Abdullah Sports City by defeating Concacaf champions Club Leon 1-0 at Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Sports City on Friday. Dutch striker Alex Schalk scored the game’s only goal, seeing off the Mexican team to tee up the tie with tournament favourites City.

Compatriot Linssen, who signed for Urawa last year having spent his entire career in the Netherlands, should be a key voice in the dressing room given, at 33, he is one of the more experienced players in the squad.

Asked what message he would give to his teammates heading into the semi-final with City, Linssen said: “You enjoy the game and do respect the players, but not too much. Because they're also normal human beings like we are, only the more talented and better.

“But nothing is impossible, meaning everything is possible. So you have to fight for it, but as long as you have too much respect for them, then you will never win.”

Urawa booked their place at a third Club World Cup by defeating Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the Asian Champions League final in May.

The club have participated in the inter-continental competition twice previously, finishing third on home soil in 2007. Last time out, in 2017, they lost their opening match to UAE hosts Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi.

However, buoyed now by the Club Leon win, Linssen said: “We are ready. We are looking forward to the game. We know by now we're going to play two games [Tuesday’s defeated team goes into a play-off for third place].

“City will be a really tough game, but we will fight.”

Linssen’s teammate, Shinzo Koroki, echoed Linssen's message to embrace the occasion on Tuesday night, saying: “This kind of competition, it's really a rare competition – maybe you experience it one or two times in your life. So I told the players to really enjoy this competition.”

City, of course, come into the tournament off a difficult run of form that includes only three wins in their past eight matches. They travelled to Jeddah immediately after Saturday’s dispiriting 2-2 draw at home with Crystal Palace, where the Premier League holders, now fourth in the table, let slip a two-goal lead.

Palace equalised at the Etihad Stadium deep into stoppage time.

Likewise, Urawa arrived in Saudi off the back of three wins in nine – six of those were losses – and with manager Maciej Skorza announcing last month that he would depart the club after the tournament.

That said, the J-League side have been able to acclimatise to Jeddah, while City held their first training session in the kingdom’s second city on Sunday.

The Urawa contest will mark their sixth match in little more than two weeks.

Yet Koroki said: “Even with the hard schedule, it's Manchester City at the top of the Club World Cup [in terms of] level, so I don't think this kind of situation bothers them.

“There is no change – and it doesn't matter for us.”

In the other Club World Cup semi-final, African champions Al Ahly take on recent Copa America winners Fluminense, of Brazil, on Monday night. The Egyptians progressed to the last four with an emphatic 3-1 victory on Friday against hosts Al Ittihad, as they attempt to reach a first Club World Cup final.

The showpiece takes place at King Abdullah Sports City on December 22.

Updated: December 17, 2023, 3:56 PM