Bedi: I feel at home in Abu Dhabi

TP Mazembe Englebert midfielder Mbenza Bedi made a name for himself on Friday when he became the first player to score in two consecutive FIFA Club World Cup competitions. On target in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers last year, Bedi got in on the act again on Friday, lashing home the only goal as the African champions saw off Club de Futbol Pachuca in the quarter-finals.

“I feel very much at ease here,” the Crows’ goal hero told FIFA.com after joining Dwight Yorke as one of only two players to score in separate FIFA Club World Cup tournaments. “I’ve found my bearings and this is obviously a competition that agrees with me. The only difference is that this time my goal actually counted for something.”

As Bedi went on to explain, he and his team-mates are feeling very comfortable on their second trip to the UAE and are in the mood to express themselves: “Football is a universal game and it’s played the same way all over the world. We feel at home here, like we do anywhere, and we’re going to play the same way we do at home: to win.”

Building on firm foundations
Aside from Bedi’s smart finishing, the Crows owed their victory over the Mexicans to some solid defending, an aspect of their game that their recently-appointed Senegalese coach Lamine N’Diaye has worked hard to improve.

An appreciative Bedi was quick to give the new man praise: “He’s prepared us well, but he told us that his work ended at the touchline and that it was up to us to make our own luck on the pitch. He’s put a big emphasis on the defensive side of our gameplan. We’re not a defensive team but a team that defends well. There’s a difference.

This is obviously a competition that agrees with me. The only difference is that this time my goal actually counted for something.
Mbenza Bedi

“Attacking comes more instinctively than defending,” added the two-time CAF African Champions League winner. “Defending is something you have to work on harder. But we’ve done that and it’s paid off for us.”

As the midfielder went on to acknowledge, another possible factor in the Congolese side’s success on Friday was the experience they gained at UAE 2009, when they returned home with much to ponder after losing both their games.

“This is our second appearance in the competition and we can’t make the excuse of being inexperienced or naive this time,” he said. “The first went badly. We played well and we scored goals but the games didn’t go our way. Even so, it’s come in useful for us because we feel more confident now. We’ve drawn on that experience.”

The pride of Africa
As was the case last year, the Crows are being cheered on by a sizeable contingent of fans, who have made the long trip from Lubumbashi to give their heroes all the support they need.

“There are loads of them supporting us here and we want to win for them too,” said Bedi, giving his reaction to the incessant singing and music in the stands. “We taking part in the biggest club competition in the world and we’re flying the flag for Africa in style. We can feel proud.”

The Congolese side and their fans will have even more reason to be proud if they can claim a place in next Saturday’s final. To do that, however, they will need to find a way past semi-final opponents SC Internacional do Porto Alegre, the 2006 champions.

“They’re a great team from a great footballing country,” said Bedi. “But we’re relaxed and determined because we know we’re a big club too. We respect our rivals, but we’ll be doing our utmost to beat them.”

Asked if he can add another goal to his tally against the Brazilians, the reserved midfielder responded bullishly: “I hope so. I don’t see why I can’t get more than one.”