They have played more matches and minutes than any other side, but Henk ten Cate insists his Al Jazira players have one final effort left in them as the prepare to earn a podium place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi have already progressed further in the tournament than any previous effort from a side from the Emirates.
They have played three matches – one more than any other side at the tournament, racking up 270 minutes.
But the prospect of a bronze medal means his players will do “everything possible” in Saturday’s third-place play-off against Mexico’s Pachuca, as it is something they will remember for the rest of their lives, according to Ten Cate.
“I’m really very satisfied that I’m sitting here. I’m really proud of my team,” said the 63-year-old Dutchman.
“And I hope that we will do everything to give the very last effort in order to win the medal. We’re to do everything possible, and my players will definitely do that, to get a medal. Because this is something they can look back on for the rest of their lives.”
Jaizira have progressed impressively as the tournament as gone on. They scraped through to the quarter-finals following a poor performance against semi-professional New Zealanders Auckland City.
But they then upset the champions of Asia, Urawa Red Diamonds, 1-0 to set up a dream semi-final with Real Madrid – taking the lead against Los Blancos before succumbing to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale goals on Wednesday.
Ten Cate admitted his injury-ravaged squad are tired, but their attitude will shine through at Zayed Sports City on Saturday.
He added: “Of course the players are tired. But we have a very big sign in the dressing room that the mind is stronger than the body. If you really want to achieve something then with a lot of willpower and determination and good luck you can win big matches.
“This is what we’re going to try to do, to win another big match.
“My players showed their character in the first three games and I’m more than 100 per cent positive that they will show their character also in the last game. And especially when there’s a medal at stake.”
Having seen the effort his players gave in narrow defeat to the reigning Spanish, European and world champions, many people would be content.
But the former Chelsea and Barcelona assistant admitted he was in a bad mood on Thursday.
“The day after was for me a bad day,” said Ten Cate.
“After the match maybe I was relieved that we didn’t get whipped. But the day after you realise you were so close. And then the disappointment starts.
“For me I was really disappointed and I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was. Because we were so very close. And what if (Mbark) Boussoufa would’ve stayed 10 centimeters onside and we would have been winning 2-0. It’s all those questions that come out.”
Despite playing two gruelling matches that both went to extra time, Pachuca coach Diego Alonso and his players are determined to finish the tournament in a “beautiful” way by claiming a podium place.
The Gophers have certainly toiled in Abu Dhabi, playing 240 minutes of football, second only to Jazira. But despite battling fatigue, the Mexicans have the chance to better the fourth-place finish they recorded in Japan in 2008 with victory against the hosts.
“Maybe we can be third, among the three best teams in the world. That would be beautiful,” said the Uruguayan, who revealed Japan icon Keisuke Honda is likely to feature despite playing the tournament nursing an injured right foot.
“It is a huge challenge and I hope we can get it. It could be fantastic. In the last two days we have tried to recover because we have played 240 minutes in six days, it takes a lot out of you physically and mentally.
“Our nerves have also tired and we have tried to recover. I think tomorrow the game deserves our full energy and commitment in order to get a good result.”
They will play hosts @AlJazira_uae for a chance to win a medal, and that is something that drives #PrideOfAbuDhabi coach Henk ten Cate and his players. “It is something they will remember for the rest of their lives” says the Dutchman pic.twitter.com/c5LywXkBdd
— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) December 15, 2017
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