The World has opened up for Al Jazira.
Unconvincing as they were in Wednesday night’s opener at a mild Hazza bin Zayed Stadium against tournament veterans Auckland City, Brazilian forward Romarinho’s emphatic daisy cutter just before the break put the Pride of Abu Dhabi on the path which could include a cherished meeting with European grandees Real Madrid.
Yet, they are a long way from turning their dream into reality if this patchy display against amateur opposition is repeated when AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds run-out at a renovated Zayed Sports City in Saturday’s quarter-finals.
Ravaged by injuries and withdrawals, the Arabian Gulf League’s holders failed to find any fluency as the Club World Cup experienced a low-key return to the UAE for the first time in seven years.
Auckland’s ninth entry saw them camped in the host’s half after the interval. Sometime UAE No1 Ali Khaseif earning the man-of-the-match honours, in part, for his point-blank, second-half save from one-cap New Zealand forward Ryan De Vries was illustrative.
How coach Henk ten Cate must long for stability in his selection. The absences, for a variety of reasons, of ex-France anchorman Lassana Diarra, utility man Mohammed Fawzi and midfield metronome Mohamed Jamal were particularly glaring.
Coltish defensive midfielders Mohamed Al Attas and Eissa Al Otaibah shrunk in the globe’s glare. Whites hot shot Ali Mabkhout stood statuesque in the chilly Al Ain night.
Judging by the weight of opportunities, the OFC Champions League’s dominant club did not deserve elimination during the play-offs in front of less than 5,000 supporters.
De Vries was a threat throughout for a team which included a driver and dishwasher. His weak shot was grasped by the grateful Khaseif in the 12th minute, young forward Callum McCowatt also spurning a similar opportunity before Romarinho’s moment arrived.
The summer addition from Qatar’s El Jaish raced onto a loose ball 20 yards from goal, a smart step over from referee Malang Diedhiou granting him space to lash in a memorable fifth strike in 14 appearances.
This effort from the 2012 CWC winner with Corinthians did not provide a necessary spark. Their paltry AGL title defence transferred to this gala competition.
Auckland’s control was continuous. A threatening volley from Mexican Fabrizio Tavano skimmed over, prior to De Vries’ final miss.
Jazira were left to celebrate at the end. But a berth in the sold-out semi-finals and finals appears a distant hope, on this evidence.
— #ClubWC 🇦🇪🏆 (@FIFAcom) December 6, 2017
The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious award in world football.
In recent years it has been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who have shared the top individual prize between them since 2008.
As both players continue to tussle for the top accolade, Messi leads the way with five wins – more than any other player in history – although it could soon be matched by Ronaldo.
Widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time, the Argentine has brought football to a new level with his quick feet and clinical finishing ability.
The Barcelona superstar first won the Ballon d’Or in 2009, before it merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year award, and clinched it every year until 2012 when his grip on the award was broken by Ronaldo.
However, Messi’s crowning moment came in 2015, when he capped off a famous tremble winning season with Barcelona to collect a fifth award – scoring 52 goals for club and country across the calendar year.
Now 30, the maestro from Rosario has netted 524 goals in 605 matches since breaking on to the scene for the Catalan giants back in October 2004.
His mantelpiece speaks for itself carrying eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, four Copa Del Reys, three Club World Cups and seven Spanish Super Cups.
Octo Finissimo Automatic A Third World Record for Bulgari
Bulgari is once again the spotlight, proudly presenting its third successive world record.
The Octo Finissimo Automatic is the slimmest ultra-thin self-winding watch on the market to date.
After introducing its Tourbillon in 2014 and the Minute Repeater in 2016, the Maison unveils its new creation featuring a total thickness of just 5.15mm, while its self-winding movement is just 2.23mm thick for a 40mm diameter.
The iconic Octo is once again pushing the boundaries of watchmaking feasibility.
Paul Pogba is gutted to be missing the Manchester derby but suspension will not prevent the midfielder from helping United mentally prepare for the must-win clash against swashbuckling City.
Old Trafford plays host to the most highly-anticipated clash of the season as Jose Mourinho’s second-placed side attempt to make a dent on the eight-point cushion built by Pep Guardiola’s runaway Premier League leaders this Sunday.
No side has ever enjoyed a better start to a top-flight season and Manchester City will look to take a double-digit lead by ending United’s club record-equalling 40-match unbeaten home run.
Pogba knows just how crucial victory is this Sunday and has vowed to help in any way he can, despite the star turn missing the match of the season after his sending off in the 3-1 win at Arsenal.
“I’m very disappointed because I really want to help the team and wanted to be there for this derby because obviously we are playing City and in this moment we need points and we need to win,” the Manchester United midfielder said.
“It’s an important moment, an important game so, like I say, disappointed.
“Manchester City against Manchester United has always been a big, big derby. One city, two clubs.
“You know how it is so I won’t tell you what is going to happen.
“It’s going to be a big atmosphere in the stadium and a big game with a big team and big players so that’s the game you want to play.
“Unfortunately I won’t play but I will be there to help the team mentally.
“We need to (attack City from the start). To win those games you need to give everything.
“You need to be there offensively, defensively.
“Kill the game when you have one chance because they are City and they have quality as well in front and they can kill the game at any time.”
Pogba’s absence is a gut punch given his fine form this season, which continued as CSKA Moscow were overcome 2-1 on Tuesday to secure United top spot in their Champions League group.
Mourinho’s men need to utilise the building “positive energy” and the France midfielder has no doubt that the side can flourish in his absence.
“I have complete trust in the team,” the 24-year-old said. “Even if I am not there, I will be there watching the game giving positive energy and hopefully we are going to win.”
Asked if he can still have a role against City, Pogba added: “Mentally. I need to be there to boost the team and hopefully it will help, yeah.”
All help will be welcome against an unbeaten City side whose mental strength has impressed as much as their skill.
“They are first for good reason because they have been doing great at the start of the season,” Pogba said.
“They keep winning and they didn’t lose one game and obviously mentally they are very strong. We need to be as good as they are mentally.”
As good as City have been, Guardiola is likely to have breathed a sigh of relief when Pogba was ruled out of the derby.
Sunday is the first of three matches the France midfielder will miss after receiving a straight red card for his challenge on Hector Bellerin in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Arsenal.
“Yeah I didn’t really speak after the game – I didn’t have time – but I think Hector, I know him as well, and I would never give him a tackle like this,” he said.
“It looks very bad but the intention wasn’t like that. They had the decision, the referee got the red card and that’s football.”
Provided by Press Association Sport