About a year ago, Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia ended the Club World Cup with a heavy 0-4 loss against Al-Ahly of Egypt in the third and fourth-place match, but the Asian champion made history yesterday, Tuesday, when he became the first Saudi team to qualify for the final with a 3-2 victory over Brazilian Flamengo.
The defeat against Al-Ahly represented the turning point for Al-Hilal last year, after which the Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim left and the veteran Argentine Ramon Diaz returned.
And after it was far from the leaders Al-Ittihad, Al-Hilal rose up to snatch the Saudi Professional League title in the last round of the competition.
The holding of the World Cup in Qatar at the end of last year changed the dates of the AFC Champions League and postponed the final of the current version, giving the Confederation Al Hilal the opportunity to compensate its fans.
And it seemed that the Asian champion was on his way to take another blow, with his delay in front of Wydad - the African champion - at the start of his participation in the tournament hosted by Morocco, but Mohamed Kanou's goal from a penalty kick opened the way for qualification by penalty kicks.
🇸🇦 An unforgettable night for
Al Hilal in the World Cup final 🏆
📺 Enjoy watching ⬇️
#Club _ World _ Cup |
- Saudi Sports Company SSC (@ssc_sports) February 7, 2023
Coach Diaz surprised everyone by expecting Al-Hilal to qualify for the final, despite facing Flamengo, the Copa Libertadores champion.
However, the Argentine coach's expectation turned into reality from the start, as Al-Hilal took an early lead with a penalty kick from Salem Al-Dosari after 3 minutes.
Although Gabriel Barbosa equalized for the Brazilian team in the 20th minute, Al-Hilal regained its lead in stoppage time for the first half through a second penalty kick that Al-Dosari also executed.
Al-Hilal took advantage of Gerson's expulsion to add Vietto the third goal, before Pedro narrowed the difference after it was too late.
In an interview with Saudi Sports Channel (SSC), Diaz explained why he expected to reach the final, saying, "I derive my confidence from the players, as they always give me hope. Their efforts were not in vain, and we are facing a historic moment, so let's enjoy it."
The final match will be a double chance against Al-Hilal, whether by facing Real Madrid for the first time or the possibility of revenge against Al-Ahly.
"We deserved to win, and we showed the personality of the adults," said Saud Abdel Hamid, Al Hilal defender.
The Saudi defender, who participated in his country's famous victory over Argentina in the World Cup last November, added, "We always hope for victory for the Arabs, but we will defeat those who qualify for the final."