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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Fifa Club World Cup: Romarinho says Al Jazira have to forget Real Madrid's '22 superstars' and 'just play football'

UAE champions face Spanish side in semi-final at Zayed Sports City on Wednesday

Al Jazira's  Brazillian Romarinho, centre right, hugs goalscorer Ali Mabkhout after the Emirati's goal against Urawa Red Diamonds set up a Fifa Club World Cup semi-final against Real Madrid. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Al Jazira's Brazillian Romarinho, centre right, hugs goalscorer Ali Mabkhout after the Emirati's goal against Urawa Red Diamonds set up a Fifa Club World Cup semi-final against Real Madrid. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Enjoying an increased contribution at this year’s Fifa Club World Cup, Romarinho says Al Jazira’s semi-final against Real Madrid is the realisation of a dream for the Abu Dhabi side.

The UAE champions, making their debut in the tournament, face the Spanish giants in a marquee match-up at Zayed Sports City on Wednesday, after defeating Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the last eight on Saturday. Jazira won the match 1-0, with Romarinho’s clever assist for Ali Mabkhout helping seal progression.

The Brazilian forward, 26, has previous experience of the Club World Cup, having been part of the Corinthians side who lifted the trophy in 2012. However, his game-time in Japan was limited to 15 minutes in the semi-final against Egypt’s Al Ahly.

This time has been different, though, with Romarinho integral to Jazira’s unexpected run to the last four. Not only did the frontman create the winner against Urawa, but he scored the only goal of the game in last week’s play-off with nine-time participants Auckland City.

Understandably, Romarinho has been delighted with his output thus far, although he still has fond memories of the event five years ago.

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“I played only 15 minutes, but it was an incredible experience. We were champions there in Yokohama,” he told Fifa.com. “Today, it's a totally different thing. We're going to play a semi-final against Real Madrid.

“I play a more important role in the side. I score and I set up goals for my teammates. I can only thank God for this opportunity. No one plays football alone. I help the team as much as I can. Sure my contribution is important, but the whole team deserves this celebration. We are a young team, but with a strong personality."

Romarinho will hope that character is on display on Wednesday night, when Jazira enter the sold-out match against Madrid as heavy underdogs. Henk ten Cate’s men are all largely untested at this level, whereas Madrid are seeking to become the first team to successfully defend the Club World Cup.

“Before the competition began, our dream was to play Real Madrid,” Romarinho said. “Stepping onto the pitch you have to forget those colours, that symbol that is Real Madrid and just play football.

“Over there in Madrid, that's 22 superstars. They’re all exceptional players.”

One payer who particularly stands out for Romarinho is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese underlined this week his position as one of the greatest footballers of all time, when he was awarded the Ballon d’Or for record-equalling fifth time.

“He's the best in the world,” Romarinho said. “I idolised him when I was younger. Now, I hope to find a way to play like the best player in the world in order to beat the best player in the world.”

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