Al Wahda's Victory Keeps the Hopes of a Region Alive

Dec 10, 2010, 07:51 ET from Dubai.com

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 10, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Al Wahda is off to an impressive start in its bid to be the first team from an Arab nation to come out on top at the Fifa Club World Cup. In its opening match against Hekari United this past Wednesday, Al Wahda finished with a 3-0 victory.

Although Al Wahda was the expected favorite in the match, the team did get off to a nervous start. After all, even though Al Wahda is currently the United Arab Emirates' champion, UAE fans experienced a devastating loss last year in the tournament when Al Ahli of Dubai fell early on in the tournament, dashing the region's hopes for a first time victory in the Fifa Club World Cup.

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This year, however, the hope is still alive. Al Wahda looked good on the field, with precise footwork and a strong performance. Hekari United, which traveled from Papua New Guinea to compete, showed a strong first half performance, holding Al Wahda scoreless for a solid portion of the match. However, Al Wahda rallied just before the break, with quick goals from Hugo and Fernando Baiano within a span of four minutes, effectively sealing the fate for Hekari United.

Al Wahda retained its dominance easily from there on out, keeping Hekari United from the goal for the entirety of the match. Controlling the pace and direction of the match, Al Wahda proved it has what it takes to compete on the world stage. As an exclamation point on an already impressive match, Al Wahda clinched its victory in the 71st minute with another goal from substitute player Abdulraheem Jumaa. The victory clearly invigorated the crowd of almost 24,000, who filled Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi with raucous cheers during Wednesday night's match.

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It has been a tumultuous struggle for Arab teams, who first started competing in the Fifa Club World Cup back in 2000. In that edition, both Al Nasr and Raja Casablanca represented the region. Although they both suffered first round defeats, the teams put on an impressive display, building a sense of anticipation for future competitions. In 2005, Al Ittihad from Saudi Arabia made a strong showing in the tournament, garnering a fourth place finish. Etoile Sportive du Sahel from Tunisia competed in 2007, with another powerful run that put them in fourth place.

In the years since, Arab teams have failed to impress in the tournament, including Al Ahli's disappointing loss last year in the opening match. This year, Al Wahda is the only Arab team present in the tournament, putting the hopes of a region heavily on their shoulders. However, Al Wahda is buoyed by a growing excitement, which has only been heightened by the announcement of Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 tournament.

While the region celebrates this victory, Al Wahda is turning its focus to the future. With this win over Hekari United, Al Wahda will advance to the quarter finals and compete against Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma FC of South Korea on Saturday.

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SOURCE Dubai.com



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