Raja Casablanca will be hoping to keep their dream run alive when they take on Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro in the semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup.
The Moroccan domestic champions, who are representing the host nation at the event, have upset the odds in reaching the final four for the first time.
|FIFA Club World Cup Semi-Final|
|Date, K/O (GMT)||Venue||Fixture||Stream|
|Dec. 18, 19:30||Marrakech||Raja Casablanca vs. Atletico Mineiro||FIFA.com|
Raja lost all three of their games when they made their competition debut at the inaugural event in Brazil in 2000, and little was expected of them this time around. They currently sit mid-table in the top tier of Moroccan football, with just nine goals in 11 games.
But last season's Botola Pro winners, buoyed on by a partisan home crowd, saw off Auckland City 2-1 in the play-in game before upsetting Mexico's CF Monterrey after extra time in the quarter-final.
Moroccans up and down the country will be willing Faouzi Benzarti's men to make it three wins in a row when they take on Atletico in Marrakech, but victory will be a big ask for the local side.
Speaking to FIFA.com, Raja midfielder Chemseddine Chtibi said:
Some people say that Morocco is the Brazil of Africa. So it will be a match between the Brazil of South America and the Brazil of North Africa. It's a huge occasion for us to be facing a team that has a global superstar like Ronaldinho. He's a magical player and everybody dreams of sharing a pitch with him. We want to show we can play.
Atletico are made up of both talented and experienced individuals who have been there and done it on the big stage before.
Gilberto Silva, Jo and Ronaldinho, who has been deployed in a central playmaker role, have been central to O Galo's resurgence in recent times, leading them to a Copa Libertadores title this year.
Their title run in South America was not short on drama. Atletico, who scored 29 goals in their 14 Libertadores games, won back-to-back penalty shootouts in the semi-final and final.
Speaking to FIFA.com, former Barcelona man Ronaldinho sung the praises of head coach Cuca.
"Cuca deserves a lot of credit," he said. "He planned it all and went after players that would fit the way he wanted the team to play. It was no accident that everything fitted together so well."
Atletico will be eager to emulate Corinthians' heroics last season and capture a fourth crown for Brazil at the Club World Cup.
But they will be wary of Raja and the vocal home support that comes with them.
Per FIFA.com, ex-Arsenal man Gilberto Silva said:
We can't expect to win simply because we're favourites. We have to prepare well and be at our best, and even if we are, that's no guarantee of victory. Lots of factors can decide a game of football. They have good ball skills and close down space, looking to hit on the counter-attack. We need to show respect and be fully focused.
The victor in Marrakech will take their place in the final alongside European champions Bayern Munich, who defeated Guangzhou Evergrande in the other semi-final in Agadir.