Guangzhou Evergrande set sights on Al-Ahly

AFP, AGADIR, Morocco

Sat, Dec 14, 2013 - Page 19

China’s Guangzhou Evergrande are out to beat African champions Al-Ahly in today’s quarter-finals of the Club World Cup to set up a last-four clash with European titans Bayern Munich.

The regional champions from each of the FIFA regions are gathering in North Africa to decide which is the best domestic team in the world.

The Oceania representatives, Auckland City FC of New Zealand, lost Wednesday’s opening playoff match when they went down 2-1 to host club Raja Casablanca, who meet Mexico’s CF Monterrey today in Agadir after the Guangzhou-Al-Ahly showdown.

Guangzhou were crowned Asian champions after beating South Korea’s FC Seoul last month and are eager to down Al-Ahly to set up a clash with German giants Bayern Munich in Tuesday’s first semi-final.

Both Bayern and Copa Libertadores winners Atletico Mineiro of Brazil, representing South America, have been given byes through to next week’s semi-finals.

This is Guangzhou’s first appearance at a Club World Cup, but they have a talented squad including both Asia’s Player of the Year Zheng Zhi and Foreign Player of the Year in Brazil’s Muriqui, with World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi at the helm.

Muriqui has set his sights on making an impact in Morocco, but inists Guangzhou must focus on the African champions before coming up against Bayern.

“These are world-class teams, but we will take our game to them,” Muriqui told, with Bayern set to jet to Morocco after today’s Bundesliga clash at home to Hamburg.

“The first game will be a hard test and we should strive to win. We represent China and Asia, so we will spare nothing to get a good result,” he added.

Hailed as one of the most promising stars in the Brazilian league, Muriqui made an immediate impact on his arrival in 2010, racking up 13 goals in 14 appearances in his debut season as Guangzhou earned promotion to the top flight.

The next season saw him prove equally unstoppable, notching up another 16 goals, and collecting the top scorer and player of the year awards as his side clinched the league title.

Bayern are favorites to lift the Club World Cup trophy in Marrakech on Saturday next week, with the Bavarians aiming to win their second piece of silverware under Pep Guardiola after winning the UEFA Super Cup by beating Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out in Prague in August.

Having been part of the Bayern team who won the 2001 Champions League title in Europe, midfielder Hasan Salihamidzic said Guardiola’s side will take some beating in their quest to add a first global title to their European crown.

“FC Bayern is a global brand and getting bigger all the time,” said the 36-year-old, who retired from the game last year after a season at VfL Wolfsburg.

“There’s explosive growth at Bayern, although the whole set-up is perhaps still even bigger at Barcelona and Real. Bayern are certainly aiming to become as big. Winning the Champions League and perhaps going on to win the Club World Cup can only help them keep growing,” Salihamidzic said.