Abu Dhabi: Following Al Ain’s historic Club World Cup semi-final win over South American champions River Plate, Sweden international Marcus Berg claimed it was the biggest result he has been involved in and has warned that their best is yet to come in the final on Saturday.
“It was a massive thing to do in front of our fans and go to a finals,” said Berg, who is recovering from a viral fever but contributed with an early goal to give hosts the edge on Tuesday night. “People believed that from the start. The whole UAE is proud of that and we have good players in these leagues so this is a huge boost for the whole country.”
Following Berg’s opener, Al Ain conceded two quick goals and trailed 2-1 going in the second half but bounced back with Brazilian Lucas Caio finding the back of the net.
“Of course, for everyone this is a dream coming true,” added Berg. “I think they [River Plate] were the better team but in the second half we came out little bit better.
“We added a bit more power and pressed hard. At the end of the day we deserved to win even though they are a fantastic team. We did a great performance.”
Berg also contributed with a crucial goal in the opener against Oceania champions Wellington when they were in deep trouble — trailing 3-0. That goal gave Al Ain the much needed spirit to go on and win the contest in a penalty shoot-out. In the second outing against African champions ES Tunis, an ailing Berg was on the field for a mere 10 minutes as Al Ain had the edge throughout in that 3-0 rout.
“I hope I will be fully recovered for finals,” said Berg. “Now we have more days to recover. We have managed to put behind three tough days in a short period. I think for everyone, it is important to recover well. Me also I was tired in the second half and we all need a good rest.”
Berg added the win against Wellington was the game-changer for Al Ain.
“I didn’t believe we can come back when we were 3-0 down,” he said. “But we showed we can come back. And from then on, we started to keep believing,” Berg wasn’t disappointed about missing out on playing a part in the penalty shoot-out against River.
“I couldn’t walk when I was changed so no problem even if I was not there for the penalties,” he said. “In my head I wanted to play more but I couldn’t give much. I was more nervous during the penalties as I was not on the pitch. It was great to see great penalties being taken and that fantastic save in the end by Khalid Eisa.”
Berg said he wasn’t too bothered about which opponents they will be facing in the final — Spanish giants Real Madrid or Japan’s Kashima, who were playing their semi-final on Wednesday night.
“We don’t know who we play but it actually doesn’t matter if it is Real or Kashima,” he said. “What is more important is to go there with the right attitude. If Real is there then they are the big favourites but we will do our best to make everyone proud. We already done that but we will continue and try to make a great final.”
Al Ain’s Brazilian striker Caio was also ecstatic with the side’s win and was delighted that he could contribute with a goal in the team’s cause.
“Very happy to have scored for the team,” he said. “We knew it was a difficult game and we have given 100 per cent and even more. I would say it was like we ran until we died [sic] to [ensure] a good game.”
Caio added that he and his teammates were optimistic about making it to the final from the start.
“To be honest, I never thought even once that we wouldn’t go to the final,” he said. “From the time I entered the pitch I wanted to go to the final. We all played that way. Now it has been a reality and it doesn’t matter whether we play Real or Kashima. If we play Kashima, I will be probably be more happy as they are my former team.”
The Brazilian also revealed that getting a hard time from River’s supporters gave him more determination.
“When River’s fans were going after me I got more power to show who I am. To show my fans that I have scored against River Plate is special,” said Caio adding that, having provided the joy to the entire nation, they now have firm aspirations to go all the way and clinch the title.