But, after a stellar campaign, which included a strong performance against Real Madrid on Wednesday, we look at four things learned from their tournament in the UAE.
ROMARINHO COMING INTO HIS OWN
The Brazilian has been ticking along nicely since his summer arrival, with four goals in 13 games in all competitions and three Arabian Gulf League assists.
But he has exploded on the bigger stage, rocketing a ragged Al Jazira into the Club World Cup proper with the only goal against Auckland City, and scoring stylishly to put them 1-0 up against the mighty Real Madrid. While Lassana Diarra and Ahmed Khalil have flopped, he has fizzled.
ALI MABKHOUT PROVES HE CAN DO IT ON WORLD STAGE
For a while we have talked up the two top talents of UAE football, Mabkhout and Omar Abdulrahman, suggesting both have what it takes to succeed at a higher level.
Under the bright white spotlight against Real, Mabkhout certainly didn’t melt, dazzling under the eye of the watching world. He was also the man who fired them to that magical semi-final, scoring the only goal to knock out reigning Asian champions Urawa Reds.
Al ATTAS SHOULD BE TARGETING UAE’S 2019 ASIAN CUP SQUAD
Partly because of necessity, partly because of talent, rising star Mohamed Al Attas has played a pivotal role during Jazira’s Club World Cup journey. Thrust into the limelight due to a myriad of injuries, Al Attas could have been forgiven for wilting after a poor display against Auckland.
That turned out to be but a blip on what appears to be a promising road to stardom for the multi-skilled 20-year-old. If he can sustain his place in the Jazira first team this season, breaking into the national team set-up for the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil should be his next aim.
BOUSSOUFA CEMENTING PLACE AS CLUB LEGEND
In recent years, the club has bought in big names such as Mirko Vucinic, Jefferson Farfan and Thiago Neves, but all have left with tarnished reputations. Diminutive Moroccan Boussoufa, however, has bucked the trend of big name Jazira disappointments by proving to be a shining example both on and off the pitch.
The former Ajax and Chelsea youngster glides across the field, picking holes in opposition defences, while knitting together a talented crop of youngsters and providing a role model for them to admire.
The 1986 World Cup winner, who is a Dubai resident, has guided the ambitious Emirate to joint-top of the UAE First Division League table since taking over last summer – but felt the need to put doubters in their place.
After a 1-0 victory at Masafi on Friday, the cult hero – who makes the trip from Dubai to the east coast Emirate on an almost daily basis – spoke of his dedication to the club and also put to bed rumours about alleged drug abuse.
“I have to journey a total of 300 kilometres every bloody day to train my team, from Dubai to Fujairah,” the 56-year-old said via social media.
“It’s ME who wants to tell you all of this so nobody can tell you I do not work or that I’m still on drugs. I have not consumed any for 14 years, thank God. And I’m not giving in… But, as I always say, they will spin it how they want.
“I’m sending a big hug to all!”
Maradona, who returned to club management after a five-year hiatus following on from his sacking at Al Wasl in 2012, also commented on how he has managed to turn the fortunes around of his current employers.
He said: “The team is getting established more and more, thanks to the talks we make with my technical staff. We are Maradona, Enrique and Islas, a core of technicians who want to pull this off, and we are doing it with all our hearts.
“In our last practice, my players understood that the rivals are going to give us a fight, because we are the team to beat.
“And the truth is today they played a great game. The defence were great. Al-Hafiti “Marscherano” very well in the midfield, with Mansouri and Bravo, on the right. And the forwards Kossoko (for me he would have to be playing in the French league) and Khalfan, who can strike at any moment.”
They have played more matches and minutes than any other side, but Henk ten Cate insists his Al Jazira players have one final effort left in them as the prepare to earn a podium place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi have already progressed further in the tournament than any previous effort from a side from the Emirates.
They have played three matches – one more than any other side at the tournament, racking up 270 minutes.
But the prospect of a bronze medal means his players will do “everything possible” in Saturday’s third-place play-off against Mexico’s Pachuca, as it is something they will remember for the rest of their lives, according to Ten Cate.
“I’m really very satisfied that I’m sitting here. I’m really proud of my team,” said the 63-year-old Dutchman.
“And I hope that we will do everything to give the very last effort in order to win the medal. We’re to do everything possible, and my players will definitely do that, to get a medal. Because this is something they can look back on for the rest of their lives.”
Jaizira have progressed impressively as the tournament as gone on. They scraped through to the quarter-finals following a poor performance against semi-professional New Zealanders Auckland City.
But they then upset the champions of Asia, Urawa Red Diamonds, 1-0 to set up a dream semi-final with Real Madrid – taking the lead against Los Blancos before succumbing to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale goals on Wednesday.
Ten Cate admitted his injury-ravaged squad are tired, but their attitude will shine through at Zayed Sports City on Saturday.
He added: “Of course the players are tired. But we have a very big sign in the dressing room that the mind is stronger than the body. If you really want to achieve something then with a lot of willpower and determination and good luck you can win big matches.
“This is what we’re going to try to do, to win another big match.
“My players showed their character in the first three games and I’m more than 100 per cent positive that they will show their character also in the last game. And especially when there’s a medal at stake.”
Having seen the effort his players gave in narrow defeat to the reigning Spanish, European and world champions, many people would be content.
But the former Chelsea and Barcelona assistant admitted he was in a bad mood on Thursday.
“The day after was for me a bad day,” said Ten Cate.
“After the match maybe I was relieved that we didn’t get whipped. But the day after you realise you were so close. And then the disappointment starts.
“For me I was really disappointed and I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was. Because we were so very close. And what if (Mbark) Boussoufa would’ve stayed 10 centimeters onside and we would have been winning 2-0. It’s all those questions that come out.”
Despite playing two gruelling matches that both went to extra time, Pachuca coach Diego Alonso and his players are determined to finish the tournament in a “beautiful” way by claiming a podium place.
The Gophers have certainly toiled in Abu Dhabi, playing 240 minutes of football, second only to Jazira. But despite battling fatigue, the Mexicans have the chance to better the fourth-place finish they recorded in Japan in 2008 with victory against the hosts.
“Maybe we can be third, among the three best teams in the world. That would be beautiful,” said the Uruguayan, who revealed Japan icon Keisuke Honda is likely to feature despite playing the tournament nursing an injured right foot.
“It is a huge challenge and I hope we can get it. It could be fantastic. In the last two days we have tried to recover because we have played 240 minutes in six days, it takes a lot out of you physically and mentally.
“Our nerves have also tired and we have tried to recover. I think tomorrow the game deserves our full energy and commitment in order to get a good result.”
They will play hosts @AlJazira_uae for a chance to win a medal, and that is something that drives #PrideOfAbuDhabi coach Henk ten Cate and his players. “It is something they will remember for the rest of their lives” says the Dutchman pic.twitter.com/c5LywXkBdd
— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) December 15, 2017