Wednesday 02 February 2022, 06:00

History chasers clash in UAE 2021 opener

  • Al Jazira return to the competition for the second time

  • AS Pirae mark a debut for Tahitian teams

  • The Emirati outfit finished fourth in 2017

The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021™ is set for a history-making opening match in Abu Dhabi on Thursday 3 February. Home side Al Jazira become the first Emirati team to appear in two editions when they take on AS Pirae of Tahiti, the first participants from the small island nation.

Al Jazira-AS Pirae

Thursday, 3 February, 20:20 in Abu Dhabi Overcoming travel fatigue AS Pirae arrived in Abu Dhabi a few days before their opening match after the longest journey for any of the participating teams in the competition. Overcoming the malaise of travel and the 14-hour time difference between French Polynesia and the United Arab Emirates could be a key factor if they are to put in a good performance on Thursday.

Finding chances Despite an abundance of attacking wealth at their disposal, Al Jazira find themselves short in the playmaking department, with their talismanic No10 Khalfan Mubarak sidelined with a long-term injury which saw him undergo surgery in Germany last month. Young Abdulla Ramadan could move up the pitch from his deeper midfield role to fill the void. Bouncing back While the UAE Pro League has been on the winter break for the past few weeks, Al Jazira’s most recent domestic outing produced a disappointing exit from the President’s Cup quarter-finals at the hands of arch rivals Al Wahda. Coach Marcel Keizer’s men will be eager to bounce back.

The stats

10 AS Pirae are the second most successful club in Tahitian football, having won the Tahitian Ligue 1 title ten times, the first of which came in 1989. They enjoyed their brightest spell in the early 1990s, winning three titles between 1991 and 1994. 4 Al Jazira have played four matches in the FIFA Club World Cup and scored four goals, finding the back of the net once in each of their games in 2017 when they finished fourth. Brazilian forward Romarinho (now at Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad) is their top scorer in the competition with two goals, while Ali Mabkhout and Khalfan Mubarak have a goal apiece. 2 Since the introduction of a host team spot at the Club World Cup, only two hosts have failed to win their opening match in the competition. On both occasions, New Zealand’s Auckland City was the winning team, beating UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli 2-0 in 2009 and Morocco’s MA Tetouan on penalty shootouts in 2014.

The quote

“First we want to beat Al Jazira and then we want to go all the way and win the trophy. Why not? It’s football, anything can happen.” Alvin Tehau, AS Pirae captain