Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Go Oiwa looks for Kashima Antlers to keep it tight against Real Madrid in Fifa Club World Cup semi-finals

Japanese side looking to avenge 2016 loss to the European champions

Go Oiwa wants his Kashima Antlers to do themselves proud against Real Madrid in Abu Dhabi. Reuters
Go Oiwa wants his Kashima Antlers to do themselves proud against Real Madrid in Abu Dhabi. Reuters

Two years ago when Kashima Antlers took on Real Madrid at the Fifa Club World Cup they led at one stage and took the game to extra time before they were beaten by the European champions.

That was in the 2016 final in Yokohama, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick, and the Japanese side have a chance to avenge that loss when they face Madrid again on Wednesday night, this time at the semi-final stages, in Abu Dhabi at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.

But Kashima manager Go Oiwa believes his side face a formidable task to beat opponents looking to win the competition for a third time in a row, even if Ronaldo is no longer in the line-up to terrorise their defence, having moved to Juventus in the summer.

“They always had and still a very strong squad with some world-class players, and top notch technical staff,” said Oiwa, whose side beat Guadalajara 3-2 in Al Ain on Saturday to make it to the last four.

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“Change of some players and some technical staff is not unusual in big clubs. They are still strong and have many good players. They have got lot of players who can score.

“We’ll try not to concede any goals. That’s what we are thinking of at the moment.”

Oiwa, who was an assistant manager in 2016 when the two sides met before becoming manager in 2017, believes there is more focus on his side then in 2016, but he is confident his side can do themselves justice.

“The last time we played as the tournament host,” he said. “Nobody gave much attention to our team at that time and we could play to our strengths and without any pressure.

“However, we are in the tournament this time as the Asian champions, meaning we have a bigger responsibility. Naturally the expectations are higher than the last time we met Real to take them to extra time."

Kashima midfielder Shoma Doi, who was a member of the 2016 side, said he and his teammates were aware Madrid will start as favourites, but they will be up for the challenge.

“We know we have a massive task if we want to upset Real,” Doi said. “We want to play aggressive football. We want to play the kind of football that everyone will enjoy.

“This time we are here as Asian champions and that gives us more confidence to face Real. The difference is there."

Kashima qualified to be in the UAE by winning the Asian Champions League, defeating Iranian side Persepolis 2-0 on aggregate in the final in August.

Doi said that achievement had lifted the squad and given them a momentum they have brought into this competition.

“If we can play our best football then tomorrow will be a special day," he added. "In 2016 we were there as J-League champion and this time we are here as Asian Champions.

“It gives us more confidence and a different kind of spirit. We have carried it in the UAE and that difference could matter. There are some players who couldn’t be here due to injury and we want to win it for them as well."

Doi added he and his teammates could take heart from coming from behind to beat Guadalajara, having trailed the Mexican side 1-0 at half time before they rallied.

“No matter, how the game unfolds, moment by moment we want to control the game and we did that in the first match," he said. "It was tough in the first half but we made the correction after the half time.

“It was a lesson that one should never give up and we will be having that variation if situation arises tomorrow. We will play the game accordingly.”

Updated: December 19, 2018 11:33 AM

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