African champions Al Ahly SC head into the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2020™ with experience one of their major assets.
The Egyptian club are all set for their sixth appearance in the competition, determined to improve on their best ever result: third place in 2006, on the second of those appearances.
In their bid to excel at Qatar 2020, the Red Devils are banking on their goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, an Egypt international and key figure in the club’s ninth CAF Champions League win, a campaign in which he conceded just five goals.
Aside from being in fine form, the Al Ahly captain – an imposing presence between the posts at 6’3 (1.91m) tall – also boasts a lot of major tournament experience. He even made two appearances for the Pharaohs at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™: against the host nation and Uruguay.
As he explained, El Shenawy sees his presence at the Club World Cup as something of a personal milestone: “Playing for my country at the World Cup and then taking part at the Club World Cup is a major achievement for me.”
“They’re two competitions that every player dreams of taking part in. It’s an added responsibility for me.”
Playing at an international tournament like the Club World Cup takes a lot of determination and hard work. Al Ahly, the players, and the coaching staff have all made a huge effort to be at this competition,” he stated.
The Egyptian side will kick off their Qatar 2020 campaign against host club Al Duhail SC.
With his world finals experience against Russia in 2018, the 32-year-old El Shenawy knows what to expect in his bid to help his club side negotiate that first obstacle and then ensure they go as far as they can in the tournament.
“We’ve got Al Duhail first up, which will be a special game because they’re an Arab team playing at home and in front of their own fans,” he said adding; “We’re expecting a tough match.”
“Al Duhail are a strong side with some quality players. They’ve made some big signings, bringing in a forward and a defender.”
“We’ve watched their last few games in the Qatari league and we know it’s going to be a big battle. We need to prepare the best we can so we can put in a good performance,” he stated.
Collective goals, personal dreams
If they can get past the hosts, El Shenawy and his team-mates will set up a historic meeting with European champions Bayern Munich, who won the Club World Cup back in 2013, the last time Al Ahly featured in the competition.
As the skipper acknowledged, however, it is too soon to talk about the German giants: “The most important thing for us is to win our opening match against Al Duhail, which won’t be easy.”
“Qualifying for the second round and taking on Bayern Munich would be amazing for us, the players, because we’ll be taking on the best team in Europe. It’s what every player dreams of.”
Nevertheless, El Shenawy is hungry for more than just that at Qatar 2020: he wants to help Al Ahly become the first African side to win the FIFA Club World Cup.
“The team wants to go as far as it can and have a good tournament,” he mentioned
“We’ll take it game by game to achieve our objective. My goal is to win the title. If we want to be world champions, we’ll need to stick together and be a unit,” the Al Ahly skipper concluded.
It remains to be seen if the Al Ahly captain’s dream will become a reality at the Education City Stadium on February 11, when he and his team-mates hope to be lifting the FIFA Club World Cup high in the sky.