The aftermath of the match for fifth place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008 turned out to be a study in contrasts. Adelaide United rounded off their tournament on a high by securing fifth place, while Al Ahly can only look back on a record of played two, lost two.
The Egyptians came to Japan full of lofty ambitions, hoping to do at least as well as they had done at this tournament in 2006, when they finished third. Two years on, and the dream has turned into a nightmare. Adelaide, meanwhile, came to their first ever tournament merely looking to learn, and went home with two victories under their belts.
In Egypt, people think that Al Ahly are the best team in the world. We need to be more realistic.
"In Egypt, people think that Al Ahly are the best team in the world. We need to show some humility," said the African champions' Portuguese coach Manuel Jose after his team's second defeat. "Expectations are far too high, we need to be more realistic."
His opposite number at Adelaide United, Aurelio Vidmar, was clearly delighted with his side's showing at the elite tournament. "Finishing as the fifth-best team in the world is obviously a real success," he said. "And the main thing is that we learned so much from the three matches we played at the tournament."
As far as Thursday's match in the Yokohama International Stadium was concerned, Al Ahly felt that their domination deserved much greater reward than a 1-0 defeat. "We were better than them. Adelaide had one chance and they took it," lamented defender Wael Gomaa.
"My players gave their all," added coach Jose. "They played pretty well too, so the result was a little unfair. We could probably have played a little better, but the pressure was too great and my players just couldn't handle it."
Thirty of the best"The first 30 minutes were the best we played all tournament," said Vidmar. "Cristiano scored an incredible goal, our defence was also very solid and the whole team worked well."
The solitary marksman was clearly overjoyed to have scored the winner and, being a Brazilian, his swerving effort had even greater significance. "I knew that Ronaldo had scored twice here in the 2002 World Cup Final so my dream was to do the same. I only managed half of it but I'm still delighted," Cristiano said after the match.
The mood in the Egyptian camp was one of palpable disappointment, but star forward Mohamed Aboutrika remained dignified in defeat. "We gave our best but we didn't quite have the slice of luck we needed to win the match," he said.
It was a great experience coming here and facing teams from New Zealand, Japan and Egypt
The Aussies, true to form, were their usually chatty selves and ready to give chapter and verse to anyone prepared to listen. "We ended up with two wins and a defeat which is a more than reasonable outcome. Obviously we lost the most important match against Gamba Osaka, but paradoxically, that's when we played our best," said Scott Jamieson. "It was a great experience coming here and facing teams from New Zealand, Japan and Egypt."
Midfielder Kristian Sarkies added: "We were really disappointed after our narrow defeat to Gamba Osaka, but we managed to motivate ourselves to finish off the tournament on a high. Fifth in the Club World Cup - pretty classy, don't you think?"*
Their Japan 2008 campaigns now over, the two teams quickly turned their focus to domestic issues. "We need to concentrate on the league and make sure we win our fifth consecutive title," said Jose. "I'm very proud to be coach of Al Ahly, of a club which has carved out the history of Egyptian football. No club has won as many titles as we have. We want to win the Super Cup, the league and the cup. But obviously we'll have to get over the psychological effects of this defeat."
"We've got seven A-League matches left," continued Vidmar. "We're top of the league and we intend to stay there, so we've got some hard work ahead of us."
Another piece of common ground is the teams' fervent desire to play in another FIFA Club World Cup, although for different reasons. "It's a really special tournament to play in and I hope I'll be back some day, maybe with another team, who knows? Let's see what the future holds," said Adelaide's Jamieson.
Al Ahly counterpart Gomaa, meanwhile, feels his team owe their supporters an improved display should they qualify for the event once more: "It's a real disappointment for our fans, so I hope for their sake that we'll be back and that we'll do better next time."