For many, a win for Bayern Munich over Ahly in Monday’s FIFA Club World Cup semis is a foregone conclusion, but the Egyptian giants are determined to produce an impressive show and enjoy themselves.
Ahly overcame Qatar’s Al Duhail with a narrow 1-0 quarter-final victory last week to set up a dream meeting against European champions Bayern, a clash which the Red Devils’ boss Pitso Mosimane had urged his players to enjoy.
Although Ahly made five previous Club World Cup appearances, they have never faced a European opposition. Their only two semi-final appearances saw them lose to Brazilian duo Internacional and Corinthians in 2006 and 2012 respectively.
This year, the tournament’s draw placed them in the path of a formidable side who won last season’s European Champions League with a swagger.
Some similarities can still be drawn, however, with Ahly and Bayern completing a treble of major honours last term.
“We should have fun I think. We have nothing to lose, everything to get. Imagine we win that match, our life will turn around,” Ahly coach Mosimane, who led them to an elusive Champions League crown last season, said following the victory over Al Duhail.
“Very difficult match to win. Big team, the champions, they’ve won their cup, they’ve won their league, they’ve won the Champions League. What else they haven’t won.
“OK we did the same in Africa, we won everything. The treble. But they are Bayern. Bayern has got pressure. They must beat us.”
Many Ahly supporters have thrown some jokes on social media over the past few days, saying any defeat less than 8-2 would be acceptable, in a sarcastic reference to the hammering Barcelona got at the hands of the Bavarians in the Champions League quarters last season.
However, they could have their pride shattered if Bayern claimed a comprehensive win.
“If you’re here at this competition, it means you’re a strong team. But it doesn’t matter how good they are – we have to be better,” Bayern’s prolific striker Robert Lewandowski, World Player of the Year in 2020, told FIFA.com in an interview.
“We have to fight for this win. We have to push from the first minute. We have to show our best skills, give our best football and then we have the chance to beat them.”
Mosimane will have some questions to answer before he selects his starting line-up against Bayern.
Since his arrival in October last year, the South African boss has mainly focused on keeping faith with Ahly’s attractive brand of football and improving aspects of it. He is usually loyal to his strategies but it will be hard to imagine relying on a possession-based style against a vibrant Bayern team.
Mosimane is likely to adopt a more cautious approach, with reports suggesting that he could to sacrifice key playmaker Magdi Afsha in a favour of a defensive-minded three-man midfield marshalled by burly Malian Aliou Dieng.
Monday’s game marks the first ever competitive meeting between an Egyptian club and a European side.
Ahly last played Bayern in a friendly game in 2012, which they lost 2-1 after conceding a late goal from Croatian striker Ivica Olic. The match was also played in Qatari capital Doha.
In their only other meeting, Ahly ran out 2-1 winners in 1977.