Newly crowned African champions ES Setif suffered an unlikely setback when they were beaten by Auckland City in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014 on Saturday. Their hopes of reaching the last four dashed, the Algerians will look to salvage their wounded pride when they take on Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers in the match for fifth place.
As Setif skipper Farid Mellouli explained to FIFA.com after Saturday’s defeat, the Algerians were taken aback by the quality of Auckland’s performance: “We didn’t expect them to play the way they did. They dominated the first half, and in the second they made the most of the few opportunities they had to win the game.”
Expanding on his side’s disappointing showing, he said: “As for us, we were profligate in front of goal. At the end of the day, if you don’t take your chances you end up losing, though Auckland City deserved to win and go through. They were committed and stuck to their task.”
Despite the setback, the 30-year-old midfielder believes he has plenty of time left to make a return to the competition: “I’ve got a lot left to give and I can carry on until I’m 40. There’s no reason why I can’t play in the Club World Cup again, maybe next year or later on. You can never predict what’s going to happen in football.”
Setif coach Kheireddine Madoui threw everything he had at Auckland City, including star midfielder El Hedi Belameiri, the leading goalscorer of the 2014 CAF Champions League.
Reflecting on an afternoon to forget, Belameiri said: “It’s a bad way for us to start. We need to put this display behind us and focus on the match for fifth place. This is the first time that an Algerian side has played in the Club World Cup and we need to make sure we can bow out with our heads held high.
“My dream was to play in the final and shake Karim Benzema’s hand, but it’s not to be. That’s the way it is, but maybe I’ll get another chance one day.”
Over too soon
The scorer of many a vital goal for Setif, forward Sofiane Younes was equally disappointed with the team’s efforts: “I was hoping we’d have a great Club World Cup and do as well as Raja Casablanca and TP Mazembe, but the opposite has happened. We played badly and we just weren’t ourselves out there. Defeat was inevitable.”
Now 32, Younes revealed that his playing days may be coming to an end: “I’m going to think long and hard before making a decision. I’ve had a good career and I can still remember when I started out playing barefoot. That’s the magic of football. It’s a sport that gives the poor the chance to transform their lives and live out a dream.”
Continuing to reminisce, he added: “I can remember everything that’s happened in my career. I tore some ligaments back in 2003 and I remember worrying if I’d be able to walk again, let alone play football. And this year I’ve scored quite a few important goals for ES Setif and won the Champions League, the biggest competition in Africa.”
As they attempt to put Saturday’s unexpected setback behind them, Younes and his dejected team-mates will now look forward to their farewell match against the Wanderers and attempt to end their FIFA Club World Cup debut on a more positive note than it has begun.