It’s blue vs blue in the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup semifinal as Asian champions Al-Hilal booked themselves a date with European champions Chelsea on Sunday. The Saudi Arabian behemoths thrashed Emirati champions Al-Jazira 6-1 at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, which allowed Leonardo Jardim’s men to join Chelsea, Egypt’s Al-Ahly, and Brazil’s Palmeiras in the Club World Cup’s final four.
Having defeated Tahiti’s AS Pirae 4-1 in Thursday’s preliminary round, Al-Jazira are seeking to make their nation proud as hosts of this year’s Club World Cup with a result against regional neighbors Al-Hilal. Acting as the “guests” at their very own Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, things initially go according to plan for Marcel Keizer’s men as Abdoulay Diaby gave Al-Jazira the lead in the 14th minute.
However, Al-Hilal proved their mettle as champions of Asia as two former Premier League stars in Odion Ighalo and Matheus Pereira turned the tie in the Saudis’ favor with their goals in the 36th and 40th minute respectively.
The avalanche then broke loose in the second half as Al-Hilal ruthlessly bombarded the Al-Jazira defense, with Mohamed Kanno, Salem Al-Dawsari, Moussa Marega, and an Andre Carrillo penalty effectively booking Al-Hilal’s place in the Club World Cup semifinal.
Wednesday’s semifinal date with Chelsea will become Al-Hilal’s first match against European opposition and Al-Za’eem are confident that they could go toe-to-toe with Thomas Tuchel’s charges. After all, they have personnel with European experience within their ranks – head coach Jardim had taken AS Monaco to the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League semifinal, while both Ighalo and Carrillo had played for Premier League side Watford during their careers.
Brazilian winger Pereira had scored a brace for West Bromwich Albion as they beat Chelsea 5-2 at Stamford Bridge in the league last season, while Marega had experience in the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto earlier in his career.
But even with that amount of pedigree amongst their ranks, Al-Hilal are still underdogs in their semifinal clash, as Chelsea had brought their strongest possible squad to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup. Tuchel has enlisted the likes of Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Romelu Lukaku, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, and Christian Pulisic in his squad, with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy catching up with them later in the UAE. The shot-stopper had recently won the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal on Sunday and he will jet off straight to Abu Dhabi before the celebrations are over.