Sunday’s match for third place between Club de Futbol Monterrey and Al-Ahly SC brought the two clubs' involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012 to an end. Yet judging by their impressive recent records, it would be no surprise to see the two clubs lining up in the competition once again next year.
Monterrey, who clinched third with a 2-0 win over the Egyptians, have won back-to-back CONCACAF Champions League titles, while Al-Ahly have reached five CAF Champions League finals since 2005, winning four of them to underline their status as a major force in African football.
Discussing the possibility of a rapid return, Monterrey striker Cesar Delgado told FIFA.com: “We’ve definitely got our minds set on it. We want to come back to this tournament and we’re going to fight hard to make that happen. Let’s hope we can do it because it’s a very special competition to play in, a very prestigious one. You don’t get the chance to play tough, strong teams like Chelsea every day, and we didn’t have a single easy game.”
The Mexicans arrived in Japan with designs on becoming world champions and though they fell short of that objective, they did at least improve on their performance last year, when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals and were frustrated at finishing no better than fifth.
This time around Los Rayados won two of their three games, scoring six goals and matching the third place achieved by Necaxa 2000, up to now the best ever performance by a Mexican side in the competition.
“It’s not easy,” continued Delgado, the scorer of three of his side’s goals at Japan 2012. “We lost to the best team in Europe this time. They deserved it and we made mistakes at key times and paid dearly for them. There’s an amazing difference in the way they play, both physically and tactically, and in the understanding they have. We lacked a bit of pace whenever we went on the attack, but there are some positive things we can take from it all too.”
One of those positives was the performance of the young Jesus Corona, who came into the side in place of the injured Humberto Suazo and starred alongside veterans Delgado and Aldo de Nigris, scoring in the wins over Ulsan Hyundai and Al-Ahly.
For their part Al-Ahly won just one of their three games but battled hard all the way, never more so than in a keenly disputed semi-final with Corinthians, in which they created their fair share of chances only to go down 1-0.
A mark of the Red Devils’ consistency is the fact that they have now played nine FIFA Club World Cup matches across four tournaments in all. Star man Mohamed Aboutrika has appeared in all of those games and scored his fourth goal in the competition against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, taking him level with Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Denilson as the most prolific marksmen in the tournament’s history.
“I’m a very happy man to be playing in yet another FIFA Club World Cup,” he told FIFA.com, putting his pride at representing his club and his country before any personal achievements:
“I’m only happy when Al-Ahly do well. What gives me more pleasure that anything else is to play for my club and my country and bring some happiness to the people of Egypt, where we are having a few problems right now. That inspires me in every game and I take that responsibility very seriously.”