- Bencharki, El Karti instrumental in CAF Champions League success
- Duo featured in Morocco’s Olympic team and CHAN qualifiers
- Wydad kick off their UAE 2017 campaign against Pachuca on Saturday
It is impossible to appraise Wydad Athletic Club’s victorious CAF Champions League run without lauding their attack, which grew in stature as the competition went on. In fact, the striking partnership formed by Walid El Karti and Achraf Bencharki found the net no fewer than five times in the final three matches of their continental journey, which culminated in the Moroccan side qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.
After Wydad’s arrival in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, FIFA.com got the two friends together for a chat, discussing the incredible understanding they have built up, an advantage they hope to exploit to its full potential against Mexican outfit Pachuca at Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday.
FIFA.com: Tell us about your effective partnership, which many observers think was the key factor in Wydad securing the 2017 CAF Champions League title.
Achraf Bencharki: I played with Walid in the Moroccan Olympic team in a friendly tournament, as well as in qualifying matches for the CAF African Nations Championship. I’m very familiar with Walid’s style of play, his movement and where he wants the ball to be played. After having played for so long together, be it on the international stage or with Wydad, we’re very much on the same wavelength.
Walid El Karti: Everyone knows what a talent Achraf is and we’ve got on like a house on fire, thank goodness, for three years now, whether we’ve been playing for club or country. We can still improve the relationship we have in order to do better at the Club World Cup, though.
- Bencharki scored five goals for Wydad in the 2017 Champions League
- El Karti notched the winning goal in the second leg (a 1-0 win over Al Ahly) of the final
- Bencharki began his career at Maghreb de Fes, while El Karti spent two initial years at Olympique Khouribga
- El Karti signed for Wydad in 2013, three years ahead of Bencharki
Do you have any advice for your strike partner?
El Karti: Achraf has the necessary talent to become a great player and I would never criticise him. I wish him good luck in his footballing career, and I hope he has the chance to play in Europe one day.
Bencharki: [laughs] When you give Walid advice, he just trains more intensely. He’s known for how seriously he takes training sessions. He arrives an hour early and does extra work by himself. That’s why he’s made so much progress over the past few years. He scored some decisive goals during the team’s Champions League run, proving that hard work pays off.
Your match with Pachuca is not the first time you have faced Mexican opponents. You played Mexico at U-23 level and you both got on the scoresheet. Does that help you at all ahead of Saturday’s clash?
Bencharki: Of course, but I don’t think any Pachuca players have ever come up against us before [laughs]. At the Club World Cup, each match is like a final for us. We’re going to have to be extremely focused if we want to qualify for the next round.
El Karti: The Pachuca match will be difficult and different from the Mexico match at the Toulon Tournament. We’re going to be facing the champions of CONCACAF on Saturday, but we know we can pick up a positive result.