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TOKYO - Africa's self-proclaimed "club of the century" Al Ahly have promised to spring a shock by reaching the final of this month's Club World Cup.
The Egyptian side beat Mexico's Club America in the third-place playoff in 2006 and are backing themselves to go at least one better this time in their third trip to Japan.
"Everyone expects us to go further than we did in 2006," Ahly's Portuguese coach Manuel Jose told reporters ahead of his side's match against Mexico's Pachuca in Saturday's first quarterfinal.
"That was a big step up from 2005 when we lost our two matches and finished last. This year we are dreaming of winning the title and we're working on making the dream a reality."
While winning a tournament also involving European champions Manchester United and Libertadores Cup holders LDU of Ecuador may appear the stuff of fairy tales, Ahly are keen to make a point.
"We will have to fight," Jose said. "But we want to show everyone that Al Ahly is a world-class team, a team that deserves to be competing against the world's elite sides for the title."
Ahly's press kit for the December 11-21 Club World Cup is emblazoned with the logo "Club of the Century", listing the team's vast haul of titles since being founded by an Englishman called Mitchell Ince in 1907.
The Cairo side's hopes of progressing could depend largely on the form of sharp-shooting striker Mohamed Aboutrika, who scored three goals at the 2006 tournament.
"I'm not the star of the team," said the 30-year-old. "The team is the star. Football is a team game. I don't care about the individual accolades."
Ahly's captain Shady Mohamed was less bashful about his side's chancesin Fifa's showcase seven-team event.
"We want to show Africa why we are here fighting for them. W e want to reach the final for sure." - Reuters