In the first semifinal of the Club World Cup, South American champion Fluminense will face African champion Al Ahly. Fluminense enters this match as the favorite, but there is no doubt that Al Ahli will have tremendous support from their fans. The match is scheduled for 19:00.
Fluminense: Justify the Role of Favorites!
In the spectacular final of the biggest club competition in South America, at the packed Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, one of the four biggest clubs of this city won its first continental champion title in front of more than 70,000 of its supporters, defended its home, and brought the great Boca Juniors to its knees! Fluminense finally succeeded, crowned as the champion of South America, at the same place where in 2008 they were defeated by LDU Quito after penalties.
Fluminense is the 26th different Copa Libertadores champion and the 11th Brazilian club to have a continental title in its trophy cabinet. Everyone then talked about the goals of Herman Cano and John Kennedy that brought down the famous Boca Juniors, but what few saw was that Fluminense reached the greatest club achievement with a group of “veterans.” Goalkeeper Fabio is 43 years old, Felipe Melo 40, Marcelo 35, Herman Cano 35, Ganso 34, Keno 34… Half of the starting lineup in the title match was born during the eighties of the last century and had long passed their footballing peak. People like to use the old saying in such situations, “no old man, no wisdom.” And in this case, it proved absolutely true. Cano, with his 13th goal, breached Boca and finished Copa Libertadores as the top scorer, Fabio with his miniature saves in goal mesmerized the attackers of the Argentine giant, and the only thing he couldn’t do was stop the rocket from Luis Advincula, while Marcelo and Felipe Melo with their experience held the last line of Fluminense, although someone will probably fault the former for not reacting better at the equalizing goal.
In the huge fight for the most important trophy, which they eventually won, they neglected the domestic league in which they quickly fell out of the race but managed to trip some of the biggest rivals in the fight for the title towards the end. They finished the championship with two consecutive losses that had no significant result, as by winning the Libertadores they secured participation in the next one where they will defend the title. With 56 points earned, they finished 7th in the table. These two teams have never met before, and it will be interesting to see how the Fluminense players cope in the heated atmosphere in Jeddah, where at least 45,000 Al Ahli fans are expected, although if they are used to anything, it is a fiery atmosphere.
Al Ahly: Reaching the Final is Crucial!
Al Ahly is a much more frequent participant; this is their fourth consecutive appearance in the world tournament. The Egyptians secured bronze in 2020 and 2021, with victories over Palmeiras (after penalties) and Saudi Al Hilal. However, last season they finished “only” fourth, defeated by Flamengo 4:2, and before that, they were outplayed by Real Madrid in the semifinals. Interestingly, in Cairo, this outcome was seen as a total failure, leading to discussions about whether to dismiss Swiss coach Marcel Koller.
Eventually, the former Austrian national coach retained his job and guided Al Ahly to their 11th African Champions League title. Koller is still at the helm, now probably more aware of how crucial it is for the Egyptians to make a significant leap at the Club World Cup and reach the final. Al Ahly, despite the management’s efforts to bring a big name to the club, doesn’t have the kind of stars that other participants in this competition possess. Their key players are Percy Tau, Kahraba, Ali Maaloul, Mohamed Hani, and goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy.
The Red Devils’ main strength is the team’s cohesiveness. This squad has been together for years; you won’t find a better team in Africa, but it’s questionable whether that is enough to triumph over the champion of South America. There’s a well-known narrative among Al Ahly fans who regard Real Madrid as the biggest club in the world and their own as the greatest in the universe. Given the euphoria of over 50,000 spectators at the King Abdullah Stadium in Jeddah and the way the Cairo players demolished their opponent on their turf, this belief was strongly reinforced in the match against Al-Ittihad. The stands were awash in red with the jerseys of the African champions, and Ali Maaloul, Hussein El Shahat, and Imam Ashour successively found the net, creating sheer ecstasy in the Middle East.
The disbelief was evident on the faces of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté, Fabinho, and their teammates, while Marcelo Gallardo, the man who touched the heavens by winning the Libertadores with River Plate, watched in awe. Last season, Al Ahly fiercely competed against Real and Palmeiras, losing both matches primarily due to inexperience. This time, the draw has been kind to the Egyptians; if they defeat Fluminense, they will likely face Manchester City in the final (a preferable option than meeting them in the semifinals). They could hardly have hoped for an easier route to the final.
Our Betting Suggestions
Fluminense is the favorite in this match, and the odds for their victory are 1.95 at the Mozzartbet bookmaker, while the odds for Al Ahly are 4.20.
Given the importance of the match for both teams, we believe that we will not see an overly high-scoring game, and therefore we suggest betting on under 2.5 goals at odds of 1.55 at Mozzartbet. For those of you looking for higher odds, we recommend betting on a draw (fr X) at odds of 3.35.