Zoran Mamic: Al Ain must be ambitious against River Plate in Fifa Club World Cup semi-final

The Arabian Gulf League champions will play for a place in the tournament on Tuesday when they take on the Copa Libertadores champions

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Zoran Mamic said he was proud of his Al Ain players for reaching the semi-finals of the Fifa Club World Cup, but urged his team not to think the journey ends there.

The UAE champions, making their tournament debut, saw off Tunisia's Esperance de Tunis emphatically on Saturday night, triumphing 3-0 at their Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Mohammed Ahmed, Hussein El Shahat and Bandar Al Ahbabi got the goals in front of more than 21,000 spectators.

The victory against the African champions set up Tuesday’s last-four encounter with River Plate, recent winners of the Copa Libertadores, with the match to again take place in the Garden City.

Speaking afterwards, a delighted Mamic said: “It’s a great pleasure to play the winners of the Copa Libertadores. River Plate is one of the biggest teams in the world, with a big history.


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“Al Ain have arrived in the semi-final of the Club World Cup. We have to enjoy, we have to be proud of the job we have done, but it’s not the last thing. We will try and make it difficult for River. We know their quality. That’s why we have to be better than today to survive this game.”

As host representatives, Al Ain have already performed admirably, rebounding from 3-0 down in Wednesday’s play-off against semi-professional side Team Wellington to eventually prevail on penalties.

“We want to enjoy the semi-final; we want to present the country, the club and our team in the best possible way,” Mamic said. “We have to be proud of the job we’ve done until now.

“We have to be happy, focused, motivated. I don’t think it is a question of motivation: who doesn’t want to play in the semi-final of the Club World Cup? But all details of the game have to be on the highest level, so that we can maybe make a surprise. Because River Plate are favourites. But favourites don’t always win.”

Al Ain’s victory on Saturday was all the more impressive given the squad has been hit by a virus. As such, star striker Marcus Berg was reduced to a place on the substitute’s bench, while midfielders Yahia Nader and Ibrahim Diaky missed out completely. Meanwhile, Mohammed Abdulrahman was suspended.

However, Mamic hopes to have all four available for selection against River Plate.

Asked what the Argentinians would have learnt from Al Ain’s display on Saturday, the Croat manager replied: “I’m sure the coach of River is a great coach and he knows how to prepare the match. He’s made a great job this year and I’m sure he knows what to say to his players.

“But they have to respect us. We showed we can play good football and I’m sure it will be an interesting game.”