Soccer-Flamengo won't take Al Hilal lightly in Club World Cup semis, coach says


Soccer Football - Club World Cup - Flamengo Press Conference - Ibn Batouta Stadium, Tangier, Morocco - February 6, 2023 Flamengo coach Vitor Pereira during press conference REUTERS/Susana Vera

TANGIER, Morocco (Reuters) - Flamengo will not make the mistake of looking past Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in their Club World Cup semi-final on Tuesday and will give the challenge the attention it deserves, manager Vitor Pereira said on Monday.

Since FIFA changed the Intercontinental Cup, a competition played by the winners of the European Cup and Copa Libertadores, to a new format including clubs from other continents, the South American sides have lost five times in the semis.

"We will not fall into the trap of thinking it will be an easy match against Al Hilal," Pereira told a news conference.

"They are a good team that have already a tradition to make it tough for opponents in the Club World Cup so we will not take them lightly.

"We are motivated because we can bring great joy to our fans. We represent millions of supporters, and we also represent an entire continent."

Pereira acknowledged the pressure not to disappoint the Brazilians, who see the Club World Cup as the most important title a South American club can win, but said that works as an incentive rather than an extra challenge.

"Having the pressure to win a title is great. Bad pressure is when you are fighting against relegation," Pereira said.

"The pressure that we are feeling today is a pressure that sparks you from inside, that excites, because it's a unique opportunity.

"We are two games away from the most incredible moment of our career."

Defender David Luiz, who lost a Club World Cup final with Chelsea in 2012, agreed with his coach and insisted the players were not even thinking about a possible clash against Real Madrid in Saturday's showpiece.

Real face Egypt's Al Ahly in the second semi-final on Wednesday.

"Our final is against Al Hilal on Tuesday," David Luiz told a news conference.

"The dream of winning the Club World Cup started in our first Copa Libertadores game last year. That's why we should think exclusively about the semi-final.

"This is our final at the moment, it's going to be very difficult. We know we are going to face a qualified opponent."

Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz said he understood that Flamengo were the favourites to win but that his side will try to shock the South American giants.

"We have to be ready and focused the entire match so we don't waste an opportunity when it comes," Diaz told a news conference.

"Our team are coming from winning two Asian Champions League (titles) in three years. We have 12 players from the Saudi Arabia team, so we will compete."

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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