Club World Cup experience will help Al Jazira in future, says Boussoufa

Matt Jones - Editor 01:08 18/12/2017
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Together as one: Al Jazira.

Mbark Boussoufa says he and his Al Jazira team-mates can use the pain of a 4-1 defeat in the FIFA Club World Cup bronze medal match to fuel their challenge for domestic and Asia silverware in 2018.

Moroccan international Boussoufa insists everything “apart from the last 30 minutes” of an incredible Club World Cup was positive for Jazira.

The Pride of Abu Dhabi lived up to their nickname during a mesmerising 10 days for the reigning Arabian Gulf League champions.

After edging past New Zealand’s Auckland City in the pre-tournament play-off on December 6, Henk ten Cate’s warriors stunned AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds in the quarter-finals. They even had the temerity to take the lead against Spanish, European and world kings Real Madrid in the semi-finals, before Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale rescued Los Blancos.

Prior to Madrid beating Brazil’s Gremio 1-0 in Saturday’s final, a hectic 10 days – in which they played four games, the most of any team – finally caught up with the host team as they were eventually blown away by Mexico’s Pachuca in the third-place play-off.

But veteran playmaker Boussoufa, one of Jazira’s stars during the tournament, was left feeling pride in his colleagues, and also hopeful for the rest of the season.

“It’s very important to use this experience as a platform for the rest of the season,” said former Ajax and Chelsea starlet Boussoufa, 33.

“Because of the experience. You have to understand a lot of players never played on this level. So to play on this level is very good. It’s good to have this experience and take it with you in your backpack for the future. Especially for some young players.”

One of those young players, 22-year-old Khalfan Mubarak, made it 1-1 for Jazira on Saturday in the 57th minute following Jonathan Urretaviscaya’s first-half opener for the CONCACAF Champions League winners.

But they fell 2-1 behind minutes later as Diego Alonson’s side eventually marched to a comfortable victory.

Fatigue was an inevitable consequence of so much football in such a short space of time for Jazira’s injury-ravaged squad, said Boussoufa.

“I think we got punished for our mistakes. Silly mistakes,” he said.

“It’s too bad we couldn’t come back when we scored. Right back to 2-1 and then it’s difficult. Then the tiredness came in and another mistake with the penalty.

“It’s too bad but overall I think we did a very good job. I’m very proud of them. No-one expected us to come this far in the tournament and well done to everybody.

“Everything was very positive apart from the last 30 minutes. We wanted that third place but it’s understandable with the fatigue.

“This level and this intensity, four games in 10 days, is absurd. My muscles are gone, it’s dangerous because you can pull any muscle any time.

“But we did it and we came out without any major injuries, which is most important. We could have done better in this last game but it was a little bit too much I think, the fourth one.”

Ten Cate’s troops are fifth domestically, nine points off joint AGL leaders Al Wasl and Al Ain, although they are currently riding a six-match unbeaten league run.

They also have a new ACL campaign to look forward to in the new year. And Boussoufa claims the players, especially the youngers ones, will have learnt a great deal from their Club World Cup experience.

“You always feel disappointment, no matter how old you are,” added Boussoufa, who will hope to be part of the Atlas Lions squad in Russia next summer.

“But we are happy we did well. I’m disappointed but we just need a bit of time. We can be proud. The young players will understand and we can only learn as a team from this. OK, I have experience but even I learn every day. I’m very positive for the future.

“To come here as an inexperienced side, having not made it that far in the Champions League before, and do well like this, it has to do with the players, as well as the coach, the staff, all of them.”

The diminutive schemer came straight back into Jazira’s starting 11 for the Auckland game following three weeks away with the national team. And he revealed he is looking forward to a brief break now, with the Gulf Cup in Kuwait taking precedence in the UAE from Friday.

“I came back straight away against Auckland after three weeks away and I felt very heavy,” he said.

“But I’m proud of myself for what I’ve done. I can say I played well in all of the games, I’m just really tired right now. I’m on the limit. It’s important and good for yourself personally you can perform like that, especially on a big stage like this.”

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