In the recently-concluded FIFA Club World Cup, Real Madrid took a 4-1 victory over United Arab Emirates club Al Ain FC to secure yet another piece of silverware.
Many expected this result but despite Madrid getting the trophy, many applauded Al Ain for their journey and for putting up a fight against the Spanish heavyweights.
Despite the loss, Al Ain are certainly taking so much positives in this clash, and here are three of the biggest takeaways for the club following their Club World Cup journey.
1. AL AIN’S JOURNEY TO THE FINAL
The trip to the final of the Club World Cup is an achievement on its own for Al Ain, but the way they battled against top teams is certainly noteworthy.
In the semifinal against Argentine heavyweights River Plate, it was most evident. Al Ain weren’t battling just any team, they were facing the Copa Libertadores champions.
Marcus Berg gave Al Ain a surprise lead early one before River Plate answered with two quick goals to take the lead.
Holding their nerves, Al Ain were able to strike back in the second half to eventually need a penalty shootout to decide a winner.
Here, the UAE club were flawless as they showed their mettle to convert all five attempts – leaving the pressure on River Plate as the Argentine club buckled in their last attempt to send Al Ain on their way.
2. PLAYERS UNAFRAID TO STEP UP
After facing some of the best teams in the world, it appears that Al Ain firmly know their place and that they can hang with the best of them.
In the playoff of the FIFA Club World Cup, the team had dug themselves a deep hole after falling 3-0 to Team Wellington. The half ended 3-1 and Al Ain were able to adjust in the second half to score two goals and send the game to penalties.
From there, they would go on and win 4-3 on penalties which brought them to battle Tunisian squad Es Tunis. They were dominant in the match, getting a big 3-0 win to set them up with a match against River Plate and from there, a big win to make it to the final.
It was a surprising run to the top and with players like Caio Lucas Fernandes playing big in the competition, Al Ain are ready for more.
3. THEY CAN INSPIRE UAE IN THE AFC ASIAN CUP 2019
With the club going through great success, this should be a reflection on how UAE will play as they are hosts in the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Standout performances from Khalid Essa should give him enough confidence as they prepare for arguably the biggest national football competition in the region.
As he is arguably UAE’s number one keeper, UAE will rely on Essa’s steady hands and his impressive showing in the FIFA Club World Cup should put most worries at ease.
Playing at home should inspire UAE to try and topple some of the bigger nations in the AFC Asian Cup, and the Al Ain-based outfit’s run into the final of the Club World Cup should act as an inspiration for the national team to make progress in the continental championship that they host from January 5.