- Al Ain face Team Wellington in UAE 2018 curtain-raiser
- UAE club have home advantage on 12 December against Kiwis
- Barman: "Our goal is to reach the final and face Real Madrid"
The United Arab Emirates is all set to host the FIFA Club World Cup for a fourth time. In the three previous tournaments hosted by the country, the results of the participating UAE clubs got progressively better each time. In the first edition played on UAE soil, Al Ahli fell at the first hurdle, losing 2-0 to Auckland City. In the second staging in 2010, Al Wahda managed to progress to the quarter-finals after beating Hekari United, before crashing out to Korea Republic's Seongnam to finish sixth.
At last year's Club World Cup, Al Jazira genuinely excelled, eliminating Auckland City and Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds to reach the semi-final. They then made Real Madrid sweat in a hard-fought encounter, ending their campaign in fourth place. Now Al Ain, having won the local championship last year, will fly the flag for the UAE in this year's edition. Zoran Mamic's side have ambitions to go one better this year and put a UAE team in the final for the first time.
"The FIFA Club World Cup is a global competition coveted by every club," Ahmed Barman told FIFA.com. "Al Ahli, Al Jazira, and Al Wahda participated in this tournament before and did their part, putting the UAE on the world map. We at Al Ain hope to reach the semi-final, as Al Jazira did, or do even better."
|The match - First round:||Al Ain FC - Team Wellington|
|Where:||Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium|
|When:||12 Dec 2018 - 19:30 Local time|
A final dream
Every team at this year’s event would love to meet Real Madrid, who are aiming for a third successive Club World Cup title. The opportunity to come up against the European champions is one that Barman would relish.
"There's no doubt that we’re aiming to reach the final and face a giant like Real Madrid, but first, we have to focus on our opening match against Team Wellington. We need to win to progress from this round and play the subsequent games until we reach the final against Real Madrid and show a standard of play the UAE can be proud of."
Barman believes winning the first game will not be easy. "Team Wellington are a very good team with considerable ability. They won their local league and the OFC Champions League, which proves they’re a powerful side. So, all our focus is on this opening match. We’re analysing our opponents to understand their capabilities as we prepare to perform well on the pitch and get positive result."
If Al Ain beat Team Wellington, they will face another Arab side in the second round: CAF Champions League winners Esperance of Tunisia. Asked about this possibility, Barman said: "Esperance are a big club with a very respected and capable team. I watched their Champions League final when they beat Egypt's Al Ahly. They have some high-calibre players. Tactically, they’re an organised side, playing with great discipline. If we advance and come up against them, hopefully we can make it a wonderful game between two Arab teams in this world-wide competition."
Finally, Barman spoke about the sacrifices that helped Al Ain reach this tournament. "We made it to the FIFA Club World Cup after a huge amount of work last year. We won the local title after a sustained effort over a long season. Participation in this international tournament is an incentive for us to do our best on the pitch and present an honourable image of UAE football."