Zoran Mamic warns Al Ain not to take Fifa Club World Cup opponents Team Wellington lightly
Figueira: 'We are not scared of that but what we are facing is an exciting challenge and face any challenge head on
Al Ain manager Zoran Mamic has warned his side to guard against complacency when they make their Fifa Club World Cup bow against Team Wellington on Wednesday.
The host team are expecting a full house at their 24,000-capacity Hazza bin Zayed Stadium when they take on the Oceania Champions League winners in a play-off.
The Arabian Gulf League champions go into the match as heavy favourites, but Mamic said his players would not be taking their opponents lightly and would need to match them in all departments if they are to secure a quarter-final against Esperance de Tunis on Saturday.
“In football everything is possible and that’s why we have to be very careful and respect our opponent, Team Wellington,” Mamic said at the pre-match news conference on Tuesday.
“We have to be at good level. We cannot go into the match thinking it will be easy.
“We will need to fight like the Wellington team, run like the Wellington team, we have to bring team spirit like the Wellington team and then only the quality of Al Ain will come out.”
Mohamed Khalfan Al Romaithi: We are thrilled to welcome the world to Abu Dhabi for Fifa Club World Cup
Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2018: Team-by-team guide and seven players to watch
Captain Ismail Ahmed said expectations were high for Al Ain to clear the first hurdle but the UAE's most decorated club were well equipped to handle the pressure.
“That’s not something unusual,” he said. “We have faced pressure before and we know how to handle it even if it’s a new challenge for us. Everyone in the squad are confident and we just need to go out and deliver.”
Mamic said his side had prepared for Wednesday's match by studying videos of their opponents and had identified their strengths and weaknesses.
“We watched their matches of this season and last season, and we know where they are weak and where they are strong,” the Croatian said.
“I’m sure my team will recognise these situations when they are on the pitch. For me, the better part of the Wellington team is the offensive part, as they play with three attackers.
“They have been playing this style all the time. We have to wait and see how they play tomorrow, and be ready for it. But having said that, we will do our job as we do without looking much how our opponents play.”
Like Al Ain, Team Wellington are also making their debut in the competition. The New Zealand side's manager, Jose Figueira, praised the attacking talent at Al Ain's disposal but said his players would not be overawed by the occasion.
“They have a lot of attacking weapons in the team,” said the Englishman. “They have individuals that can open up the game at any moment.”
“We know that we are coming to play in their home. We are not scared of that but what we are facing is an exciting challenge and face any challenge head on.”
With no professional league in New Zealand, Figueira's squad is comprised of part-time players, although several have been capped at international level, including midfielders Henry Cameron and Aaron Clapham, while striker Hamish Watson had a brief spell in English football with Grimsby Town.
“All our players have other jobs and they have other lives, but at the same time a lot of the players have represented New Zealand at Fifa competitions,” Figueira said.
The team arrived in the country last week to counter jet-lag, and Figueira said he was confident his young side can match Al Ain, maybe even surprise them. “For us, it’s a new experience and an experience we will relish.”
Defender and captain Justin Gulley added: “We are all feeling really good and we had quite a few days to really prepare. There is a good vibe among the boys and we are looking forward to making our mark, challenging ourselves and seeing what we can do on an international stage.”
Aref Al Awani: Every game is a big game at the Fifa Club World Cup
Updated: December 12, 2018 08:21 AM