- Flamengo begin their Qatar 2019 campaign against Al Hilal
- The match will see both sides reunited with a familiar face
- Al Sadd and Esperance contest the day’s opening game at Khalifa International Stadium
The FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019™ reaches its halfway point with one of the tournament favourites making their entrance. Flamengo arrive in Doha determined to end a stellar year on the highest of notes. Having won their second Copa Libertadores after a 38-year wait, they added another Brazilian league title to their collection and are keen to keep the good times rolling.
On the downside, however, Fla had a 28-game unbeaten run ended on the final day of the season, a setback that will give hope to an Al Hilal side that is looking to spring a surprise and reach the final. The match will be preceded by the battle for fifth place between host club Al Sadd and Esperance, the team that occupied that position in last year’s tournament. Dominant in Africa, the Tunisians continue to come up short in the Club World Cup.
? The matches
Match for fifth place
Al-Sadd Sports Club-Espérance Sportive de Tunis
17 December, Khalifa International Stadium, 17:30 local time
17 December, Khalifa International Stadium, 20:30 local time
? What you need to know
We meet again
The first semi-final of Qatar 2019 will be a memorable occasion for every Flamengo and Al Hilal player, but especially for Colombian midfielder Gustavo Cuellar and Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus. Cuellar helped Mengao reach the quarter-finals of this year’s Copa Libertadores before being sold to the Saudi side, while Jesus was in the Al Hilal hot-seat before joining the Brazilian giants and overseeing one of the finest seasons in the club’s history.
Sharpshooters go head to head
In a tournament as short as this, where the margin for error is so small, having an in-form striker can make the difference between success and failure. Flamengo and Al Hilal both have one in their ranks. Gabriel Gabigol Barbosa and Bafetimbi Gomis have each scored eight goals in their last ten matches, some of them very special goals indeed. The Brazilian scored the brace that secured the Copa Libertadores for Flamengo, while the Frenchman’s most recent strike took his side through to this semi-final.
Players to watch
Anice Badri (Esperance)
Badri was his side’s best performer by some distance against Al Hilal. All their attacks went through him, including a gilt-edged chance that could have changed the game had he put it away. Technically gifted, two-footed and blessed with superb vision, he has emerged as Esperance’s main man following the departure of Youcef Belaili.
Bafetimbi Gomis (Al Hilal)
It was Gomis’ stunning strike that took the Saudi outfit past Esperance and into the semi-finals. The leading goalscorer in this year’s AFC Champions League, the Frenchman came off the bench with 25 minutes remaining and took just eight minutes to conjure up the winner, coolly flicking the ball up and over an opposing defender and then volleying home. Al Hilal’s hopes of upsetting Flamengo depend to a large extent on how he performs.