Mazembe realistic ahead of Inter Milan final
Abu Dhabi: Pioneering African champions TP Mazembe are keeping a sense of perspective ahead of their World Club Cup final against Inter Milan on Saturday.
“On paper it’s hardly worth turning up,” said their Senegalese coach Lamine N’Diaye as they prepared for the Italian giants.
Mazembe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, are hoping to become the first African team to win the Club World Cup.
They became the continent’s first representative in the final when they upset South American champions Internacional of Brazil 2-0 on Tuesday.
The competition’s final has been played between European and South American teams since 1960, first as the Intercontinental Cup before its successor was devised by FIFA this century to include the champion clubs of its six confederations.
Mazembe, who finished sixth in last year’s tournament, have already surpassed their passionate fans’ expectations and so have nothing to lose in the match at Zayed Sports City (5 p.m. British time).
“We’ll have a chance -- we plan to seize it,” N’Diaye told a news conference.
“We’re not starting out as favourites, just as in our other matches. (Against Inter) it’s exactly the same. It’s not so much about winning or losing but doing our utmost.”
Primarily Mazembe will want to build on the positive reputation earned in their two previous matches. They beat Concacaf champions Pachuca of Mexico 1-0 in the quarter-final.
“We want African football to take off,” N’Diaye said. “I believe it’s pioneers like us who should play that role. Whatever happens, we owe it to ourselves to be the pride of all Africans.”
Inter coach Rafael Benitez, whose Liverpool side lost the 2005 final to Sao Paulo of Brazil, said his team would be as motivated as Mazembe, even if the final will be the biggest match of the African players’ lives.
“Our motivation will be at the same level as theirs,” Benitez said.
Benitez sees the match as a key to a better second half of the season for his Inter side. Plagued by injuries and loss of form, they are struggling to live up to their standards of last season when they won three major trophies under Jose Mourinho.
Inter have lost Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder with a pulled leg muscle that will keep him out for several weeks.
N’Diaye has to decide whether to field an unchanged team or bring back Zambian midfielder Stoppila Sunzu, sent off against Pachuca, after serving a suspension.
Internacional meet Asian champions Seongnam of South Korea, beaten 3-0 by Inter in Wednesday’s semi-final, for third place (2 p.m. British time).