ABUDHABI (Reuters) – Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic says his side facing Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup final will be like a Smart car racing against a Mercedes Formula One machine, but he thinks there is a chance their more illustrious opponents might break down.
The United Arab Emirates Pro League champions pulled off one of the greatest shocks in the tournament’s history by knocking out Copa Libertadores winners River Plate in a penalty shoot-out following a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals.
They will meet a Real Madrid side that have conquered Europe in the last three seasons and are on the verge of a record four Club World Cup titles, but who have also struggled for form this season, leading them to sack manager Julen Lopetegui in October, replacing him with Argentine Santiago Solari.
In a jovial media appearance ahead of the final, Mamic alluded to Madrid’s struggles and gave his side a fighting chance.
“Real Madrid is the biggest club there is, but sometimes a Smart car can beat a Mercedes,” said the Croatian.
“We want to make the final very complicated for Real Madrid. We hope that whoever is in charge of the stadium makes their goal smaller. Real Madrid is the big favourite but sometimes machines don’t work as well as you expect them to.”
Saturday’s game at the Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi will be the sixth game Al Ain will have played in an unforgiving period.
“Our team deserves to be in the final, we are tired and I’m feeling ill but we are very motivated about doing well in the game and I’m sure we’ll put up a fight,” said Mamic, who had a brief international career with Croatia.
He also said he was looking forward to meeting garlanded compatriot Luka Modric, who led his nation to the World Cup final and recently became the first Croatian to earn the prestigious Ballon d’Or award.
“I’ll speak to him and seeing as he’s won everything lately, I’ll tell him to let us win this game,” Mamic added.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Martyn Herman)