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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Sweden striker Marcus Berg ignores World Cup hype to focus on more titles with Al Ain

  • Berg scored a hat-trick to lead Al Ain to the Arabian Gulf League title
  • Al Ain will face Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the President's Cup semi-final
  • Garden City club also aiming to reach Asian Champions League quarter-finals
  • Berg has impressed in his debut season for Al Ain, scoring 30 goals so far
A hat-trick against Al Nasr on Saturday took Marcus Berg's tally to 30 goals in all competitions in his debut season with Al Ain. Karim Jaafar / AFP
A hat-trick against Al Nasr on Saturday took Marcus Berg's tally to 30 goals in all competitions in his debut season with Al Ain. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Striker Marcus Berg has heralded Al Ain as deserved UAE champions, as he puts thoughts to one side of the World Cup to concentrate on his club’s bid to make the season even more memorable.

The Sweden international scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 victory against Al Nasr on Saturday to clinch the Arabian Gulf League crown in the campaign’s penultimate round. The treble took Berg’s tally in his debut season to 21 in the league and lifted him to the top of the scoring charts.

Having joined the club last summer from Greek side Panathinaikos, the in-form frontman has averaged almost a goal per game, finding the net 30 times in 32 appearances. He departed the Al Aweer Stadium at the weekend with the match ball, which was signed by his teammates.

“With all respect to all the other teams, we are the best team," Berg said. "We showed it almost every game, even if we have a bad day we managed to take points.

"We lost only one game, which was a difficult game for us - we had a lot of people out because of different things. But in the end we are the best team. We showed it every game and that’s why we are champions.”

Berg’s fine form – he has scored 10 goals in his past four matches – represents a huge positive for his national team, too. He will lead the line for Sweden at this summer’s World Cup, where Janne Andersson’s side will attempt to emerge from a group containing champions Germany, Mexico and South Korea.

However, Berg said he is concentrating solely on helping Al Ain fight for the President’s Cup and reach the Asian Champions League quarter-finals. They face Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the cup semi-final on Wednesday. For now, the World Cup can wait.

“I never focused on that,” said Berg, who would not be drawn on compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic's potential return at the World Cup. “I focused only on helping the team to first of all reach our goals.

"Now we have reached one goal and we will continue until the end of the season. We have the cup and the Champions League also. And then after is the World Cup that we can focus on.

“When you play well, when you perform, you have to show every game that you are that good. For us, there’s no question about it: it’s the semi-final of the President’s Cup, we have to win and reach the final there. Today and tomorrow we can relax, but after that it’s full focus on the President’s Cup."

Asked if he feels he made the right decision in signing for Al Ain last summer, Berg said: “It was a good move and I am happy and in good shape. Of course, in the beginning it’s always difficult. It’s a new country, new teammates, so you need to find the relationship with all the players. Obviously it takes time.

“But also outside of football, with the family, the most important is to settle down, to have everything good outside with school, etc. When all these things are fixed, you can concentrate on all the right things: why I’m here, which is to play football. The last part of the season has been very good.”