Corinthians prepare for Al Ahly showdown

Copa Libertadores winners not complacent despite being hot favourites to beat African champions in Club World Cup semi.

    Corinthians prepare for Al Ahly showdown
    Corinthians skipper Alessandro, above, said the players had banished thoughts of a potential final against Chelsea from their minds in order to focus on Al Ahly [EPA]

    Corinthians defender Alessandro insists the Copa Libertadores winners will not be taking African champion Al-Ahly lightly when the two teams meet in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup.

    The Brazilian giants head into Wednesday's semi-final as the overwhelming favourites but do not have to look far back in tournament to know upsets can happen.

    In the 2010 tournament, TP Mazembe became the first African team to reach the Club World Cup final when they beat Copa Libertadores winners Internacional 2-0 in the semis.

    "We don't have any leeway to think about the final yet,'' Alessandro said on Tuesday.

    "We have to focus on the game tomorrow and respect the teams that made it to this tournament.''

    Title dreams

    Corinthians won the Club World Cup in 2000 and arrive in Japan having become the first unbeaten Copa Libertadores champions since 1978, recording eight wins and six draws on the way to the title.

    They are seeking to become the first side other than Barcelona to win the competition for a second time.

    The winner of Wednesday's match will face the winner of Thursday's other semi-final between European champions Chelsea and CONCACAF champions Monterrey of Mexico.

    Corinthians coach Tite is now in his second stint at the club, having made his return in the second half of 2010.

    Only three players have left the side that won the continental crown: defender Leandro Castan, midfielder Alex and striker Liedson. Signed to replace them were central defender Anderson Polga, midfielder Juan Martinez and striker Paolo Guerrero.

    A team from South America has not won this tournament since Brazil's Internacional upset Barcelona 1-0 in the 2006 final.

    Fan base

    There is a large Japanese-Brazilian community working in the automobile factories near Toyota.

    Along with the large contingent of Corinthian fans that travelled from Brazil they will make the South American champions the crowd favourite as well.

    "There are high expectations from our fans,'' Tite said.

    "We have one million of them and need to keep them happy. Some have left their jobs and families to be here so we need to perform well for them.''

    African champions Al-Ahly advanced to Wednesday's match after beating Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

    The Egyptian side are appearing in their fourth Club World Cup.

    "I've not had much time yet to really study Corinthians, but my team put in a really good performance against Sanfrecce and now we've got to turn our focus to the Brazilian side,'' Al-Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry said.



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