Morocco abuzz as famed Real Madrid check in

 Aurelien Tchouameni

Real Madrid's French midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni comforts Real Madrid's Spanish midfielder Marco Asensio after a failed penalty during their Spanish League match against RCD Mallorca at the Visit Mallorca stadium in Palma de Mallorca on February 5, 2023.
 

Photo credit: Jaime Reina | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Ancelotti’s team are second on the Spanish La Liga, eight points behind arch-rivals Barcelona with 20 rounds of matches played, and warmed up for this clash with a surprise 1-0 loss to Real Mallocra.
  • Ahly are top on the Egypt standings, six points ahead of Pyramids despite playing a game less and have the likes of South African Percy Tau, international keeper El Shenewy, and Malian hotshot Aliou Deng.

In Casablanca, Morocco

A buzz of excitement has hit through Morocco's capital city Casablanca following the arrival of Real Madrid for the 2022 Fifa Club World Cup.

Real, the Spanish giants and most successful football team in Europe with 14 continental titles, touched down on Monday ahead of a potentially thrilling semi-final against Africa’s representative Al Ahly.

The clash will be played at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat on Wednesday from 8pm local time (10pm Kenyan time).

The other semi-final pitting Brazil’s Flamengo and Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal was scheduled for Tuesday evening in Tangier.

This seven-team tournament involves clubs that won their respective continental titles.

A number of Casablanca residents said they would have preferred hosts Wydad Casablanca to play the Spanish team.

Nevertheless they are glad Morocco, a place they refer to as the home of African football following the Atlas Lions’ exploits at the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, is hosting one of the world’s most popular club teams.

Morocco, which plans to bid for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations and 2030 Fifa World Cup, beat Canada, Spain, Belgium and Portugal to finish fourth at the Qatar World Cup, a historic  first for Africa.

Passionate

But Wydad, backed by a passionate 30,000-fanbase that made the 100 kilometres journey from Casablanca, were eliminated by Al Hilal on post-match penalties in round two of this tournament in Rabat on Saturday.

“We wanted Wydad against the Merengues (Madrid’s nickname), but it will be good to watch them and learn from them because Morocco is the home of African football,” said a Muhmad, a newspaper vendor on Sheikh Sajaad street.

Ahly, managed by Swiss Marcel Koeller, warmed up for this tie with a 3-0 win against Australia’s Aukland City, and a solitary goal victory versus Seattle Sounders.

The Egyptians, with 24 continental titles, will be seeking a first ever qualification to the final, having thrice bowed out at the semis stage.

Despite lacking the services of dependable duo in the frame of French forward, Karim Benzema, and Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtious through injury, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti has come with a star-studded squad consisting of French duo Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga, former Arsenal midfielder Dani Ceballos, local boy Asensio, plus Uruguayan attacker Federico Valverde and his Brazilian striker mate Rodrygo Silva.

Ancelotti’s team are second on the Spanish La Liga, eight points behind arch-rivals Barcelona with 20 rounds of matches played, and warmed up for this clash with a surprise 1-0 loss to Real Mallocra.

Ahly are top on the Egypt standings, six points ahead of Pyramids despite playing a game less and have the likes of South African Percy Tau, international keeper El Shenewy, and Malian hotshot Aliou Deng.

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