Football Features

Al Ahly Club World Cup team preview: The Real Madrid of African football

By Mohamed Moallim

Al Ahly Club World Cup team preview: The Real Madrid of African football

Published: 12:45, 6 February 2023

Since their founding over a century ago, Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly have established themselves as Africa’s pre-eminent football club. In Morocco, they will seek to make even more history.

In 2020/21, Al Ahly secured a record-extending 10th CAF Champions League title, which saw them qualify for the 2021 Club World Cup. They were unable to defend their crown in 2021/22 but still qualified as the CAF Champions League winners, Wydad Casablanca are from Morocco so the nation already had representatives.

Technically taking the host’s spot, Al Ahly entered the competition’s 19th edition in the first-round phase and have so far beaten Auckland City and Seattle Sounders to reach the semi-final. Up next? Real Madrid.

Five things to know about Africa’s most decorated club…

  • With 25 continental titles, Al Ahly are the most successful football club in African history; the club’s international trophy collection is the second largest in world football, behind only Real Madrid (27) according to the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF).
  • Al Ahly hold the record as the team to play the most Club World Cup games by making their 20th tournament appearance vs Seattle Sounders in the second round.
  • Last time out in Doha 2021, the Red Devils won bronze after beating Al Ahly 4-0 in the play-offs, having lost 2-0 to a Palmeiras in the semis.
  • A who’s who of Egyptian greats have turned out for Al Ahly including Ahmed Fathy, Hossam Ghaly, Mohamed Aboutrika, Essam El Hadary, Mahmoud El Khatib (now club president) and Wael Gomaa.
  • Al Ahly were named ‘Club of the 20th Century’ by their continental federation.

Al Ahly’s best player?

Al Ahly cruised through their first-round game against Auckland City with a 3-0 victory, and unsurprisingly Mohamed Sherif was on the scoresheet. The 27-year-old scored Al Ahly’s second goal of the evening taking his total tally for the campaign to six goals in 18 games across all competitions, more than any other player.

It was Sherif’s six goals in the CAF Champions League last season which also led Al Ahly to the final, including one in each leg of the semi-final despite playing a combined total of 26 minutes across the two fixtures.

Who is Al Ahly’s manager?

Hiring a foreign coach is not a new phenomenon for Al Ahly, who in the past have appointed the likes of Don Revie, Manuel José and Martin Jol. Marcel Koller is the latest on that long list of foreign managers, replacing Ricardo Soares in the summer after Al Ahly had finished outside of the top two in the league for the first time since 1991/92.

The appointment brought Koller back to work after two years out following his 2020 departure from Basel, in what is his first managerial role outside of Europe. The former Austria manager has had a pretty impressive start to life in charge of Al Ahly, still unbeaten after 22 matches with 18 victories across all competitions.

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How will Al Ahly line up?

Al Ahly often operate in a 4-2-3-1 under Koller but at the Club World Cup so far they have utilised the 4-1-4-1, or a variant of the 4-3-3.

While there were some changes between the two teams, the back four and goalkeeper has remained the same, with Mohamed El Shenawy protected by Mohamed Hany, Mahmoud Metwaly, Mohamed Abdelmonem and Ali Maaloul. Aliou Dieng is the holding man and will continue there with Amr El Solia and Hamdi Fathi completing the central midfield trio.

What happens with the final three spots will be interesting though, as Sherif, Hussein El Shahat, Ahmed Abdelkader, Percy Tau, Taher Mohamed and Kahraba have all started.