Abu Dhabi: ES Tunis captain Khelil Chemmam says the African champions head into their second Fifa Club World Cup appearance this week with a lot more respect — having been found wanting in their first attempt back in 2011.
The Tunisian side missed out on a chance to play Barcelona in the semi-finals in Japan seven years ago when they lost 2-1 to Qatar’s Al Sadd in the quarters that forced them into a fifth-place play-off with Mexico’s Monterrey, which they lost 3-2.
“It was a disappointing experience, unfortunately,” Chemmam told Fifa.com. “Although we played much better than Al Sadd, we still lost, and didn’t get through to the semi-finals to play Barcelona.
“We put too much focus on the opportunity of playing Barcelona and didn’t really think enough about Al Sadd — we acted like we had already beaten them. This time, things will be different.
“We must respect our opponents and try to make the semi-finals and to go as far as possible in the tournament.”
ES Tunis will play either New Zealand’s Wellington or the UAE’s Al Ain in Saturday’s quarter finals at Al Ain’s Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium from 8.30pm. The winner will play Argentina’s River Plate in the December 18 semi-final and possibly Real Madrid in the December 22 final.
“Regardless of whom we play in the quarters, it’ll be a tough match,” added the 31-year-old defender. “Without a doubt, if Al Ain qualify, they’ll have a lot of supporters in the stands, and that will give them a boost.
“However, our fans will be there for us too. They follow us wherever we go, and we expect that to continue at the Club World Cup.”
Moez Ben Cherifia, Sameh Darbali and Taha Yassin Khenissi were also part of that 2011 squad with Chemmam and all will have a point to prove.
“We have to focus on our initial opponents and do our research beforehand. We must give our all out on the pitch so that we don’t have any regrets this time,” added Chemmam.
“Appearing at the Club World Cup might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some players, so we should be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
“We won’t set an objective, but everyone’s been dreaming of making it to the final and playing Real Madrid.
“If I didn’t play for ES Tunis, I might not have had the chance to participate in the Club World Cup in 2011 and now again in 2018. That said, I’ll need to handle the large amount of responsibility placed on my shoulders, and hopefully we’ll record better results.”