Egypt's Al Ahly are now in Asia, ready to face the world's best clubs in the FIFA Club World Cup, the FIFA-sanctioned club world championship played every year in Japan.
Although England's Manchester United are favored, the reigning African champions have a ton of confidence.
*They recently won their record sixth African championship, beating Cameroon's Coton Sport 4-2 on aggregate.
*They're reigning Egyptian champions, winning the title the past 4 years and 33 times overall. *They're 35-time champions of the Egyptian Cup.
*And in 2000, they were named the African Club of the Century by the Confederation of African Football.
They're doing quite all right, I'd say.
This week, Ahly hopes to show the world what they're made of. Ahly have qualified for the Club World Cup three times and this time, they hope to advance and win the championship.
At a press conference in Egypt before their departure, the team brimmed with confidence.
Ahly club chairman Hassan Hamdi said, "These are the glory years of Al Ahly, whose name is now carved within the world's best teams. The staff have done a brilliant job. We are now eager for more. The club officials and fans are confident the team can show more progress this time."
Portuguese coach Manuel Jose says the team is highly ambitious.
"This year there is huge responsibility because everyone expects us to go further than the third place we achieved in 2006, which was also an improvement from the previous year in 2005, when we lost our two games and came last. We dream of winning the cup, and we are working on making the dream a reality."
"The players shouldn't be under pressure. They should just concentrate on the ball and on achieving their goal. It is not going to be easy and we will have to fight. We will display our best because we want to show the world that Al Ahly is a world-class team, a team capable of competing against the world's elite clubs and for the title as well."
(Having said that, take a look at this quote from England's The Daily Telegraph attributed to Jose: "For an African club to finish third in this competition resembles winning the title," Portugal-born Ahly coach Manuel Jose said.
"We will do our best to represent Africa and Egypt well, but our supporters must be aware there is a big gap between football in South America and Europe and football in Africa. Winning the Club World Cup is an impossible task for now. We need more time to achieve that goal."
Hmm ... )
Ahly captain Shady Mohamed admitted the players are determined to make an impression. "This team have achieved many unprecedented achievements, like winning the African Champions League six times and qualifying for Japan three times," he explained.
"So we need to prove to the world that we deserve to be among the elite, and that we are the best representatives for African football. We want to reach the final and hope we can return home with the title. We need to focus more on our first game. Winning our opener will give us more confidence to progress in the competition until we win it."
The hopes of the Cairo giants rest at the mercurial feet of Mohamed Aboutrika, who thrilled audiences at the 2006 edition of the Cup. However, the 30-year-old insisted his side's chances hinge of the players' collective performances. "Football is a team sport, no one can play alone," he said.
"I'm not the star of the team - the team is the star, that's what Mr. Jose tells us. I don't care about individual achievements because only team achievements remain in the memory of the fans, and I'm part of the team."Ahly's path to the final looks kind of easy.
Should Ahly see off the challenge of Mexico’s Pachuca in the first round, they will play the beatable Ecuadorian side Liga Deportiva Universitaria (LDU) de Quito in the semifinals, just one step away from a likely meeting with Manchester United, Europe's reigning champions.
The tournament runs from December 11th to December 21st. The Cup's contested between the champion clubs from all six continental confederations, although, since 2007, the champions of Oceania must play a qualifying play-off against the champion club of the host country.
Ahly's been in the tournament three times.
The first trip in 2005 proved a major disappointment as they lost 1-0 in the quarterfinals to Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad, before succumbing 2-1 in the fifth-place play-off to Sydney FC. The following year they did much better, finishing the competition in third place.
They beat New Zealanders Auckland City 2-0 in the quarterfinals, before losing out 2-1 to the eventual winners, Brazilian club Internacional. They ensured the competition would be deemed a success, however, when they clinched third thanks to an excellent 2-1 win over Club América of Mexico.Besides Ahly, this year's Cup features Manchester United; Mexican club Pachuca, who have won the last two editions of the CONCACAF Champions League and Ecuadorian side Liga Deportiva Universitaria (LDU) de Quito, champions of South America.
Japan's Gamba Osaka, winners of the 2008 AFC Champions League will represent the J-League, while the losing finalists, Australia's Adelaide United, will also be there to represent Asia.
The line-up is completed by the OFC Champions League winners Waitakere United of New Zealand. Matches are played at three venues in Tokyo, Toyota City and Yokohama.
For a break-down of the match-ups, please click here.
What does ESPN's Soccernet.com think of Ahly's chances?
Al Ahly (Egypt; Africa/CAF)Good luck Ahly! We here at Road to 2010 are pulling for you!!!
Who are they? Africa's most successful club, the Egyptian side dominated last year winning the league and African Champions League double. Portuguese coach Manuel Jose has now led the club to four of their six Champions League successes and the club boast a number of players who have starred for Egypt in their back-to-back African Nations Cup wins. They are also nicknamed 'The Red Devils' and came third at the tournament two years ago.
Captain? Shady Mohamed. The sudden departure of goalkeeper and former skipper Essam El Hadary to FC Sion shocked the club, but Mohamed has the experience and toughness to succeed in the position. A quick central defender with outstanding fitness, he will have to be at his best to get Al Ahly into the finals.
Player to watch? Mohamed Aboutrika. The outstanding performer of the 2008 African Nations Cup, Aboutrika runs the midfield with his creativity and skill on the ball. Providing a potent goalscoring threat from behind the strikers, if "The Smiling Assassin" is on top form then his club could go far.