Egyptian giants Al Ahly face Moroccan counterparts Raja in the CAF Super Cup at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan today. Al Ahly are the title holders, having beaten Morocco’s RS Berkane 2-0 in Doha last May to lift their seventh Super Cup trophy.
Al Ahly qualified for the CAF Super Cup 2021 after winning the 2020-21 CAF Champions League title for a record tenth time last July. After beating Niger’s AS Sonidep 5-0 on aggregate in the Second Preliminary Round, Al Ahly came second in Group A behind Simba (Tanzania) on 11 points. The Red Devils won three games, drew two and lost one. In the quarter-finals, Al Ahly defeated South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 on aggregate to reach the semifinal, where they beat Tunisia’s Esperance 4-0 on aggregate.
Al Ahly defeated South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs 3-0 in the final on 17 July 2021 in Casablanca, Morocco. Mohamed Sherif, Mohamed Magdy “Afsha” and Amr El Soleya scored in the second half as the Red Devils retained the trophy and extended their record to ten Champions League titles.
Al Ahly’s captain and goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy said the team is ready for the important match. “We are ready for the CAF Super Cup. We understand the magnitude of the game and we are motivated to defend our title and make our fans happy,” he said.
“We have much respect for Raja and we all know the special nature of our matches against the North African clubs. The small details always determine the results of these games.”
Meanwhile, Raja will play the CAF Super Cup after winning the 2020-21 CAF Confederation Cup for the second time last July. Raja started the campaign in the CAF Champions League but were eliminated from the Second Preliminary Round. Losing to Senegal’s Teungueth on penalties after 0-0 aggregate draw.
In the CAF Confederation Cup Additional Second Preliminary round, Raja needed penalties shootout to beat Tunisia’s US Monastir after 1-1 aggregate draw. Raja then topped Group D on maximum 18 points, winning all their six group games. In the quarter-finals, the Green Eagles defeated South Africa’s Orlando Pirates 5-1 on aggregate to reach the semifinal, where they once again needed penalties to beat Egypt’s Pyramids after a goalless aggregate draw.
In the final. Raja defeated Algeria’s JS Kabylie 2-1 on 10 July 2021 in Cotonou, Benin. Sofiane Rahimi and Ben Malango scored for the Green Eagles who celebrated their second CAF Confederation Cup title.
Raja’s Belgian coach Marc Wilmots admitted the difficulty of the task awaiting his team. Wilmots said: “We are aware of the difficulty of the task, and we appreciate the strength of the opponent, who have a history full of championship titles. But we are not afraid of them, and we have come to Doha for one goal, which is to take the Cup back to Casablanca, as Raja used to in all the finals they have fought.”
He continued: “These type of matches are decided by some small details, including good psychological preparation. So we try as much as possible to avoid pressure and maintain our calm.”
Wilmots took over as the head of the technical staff of Raja Casablanca last month and has been involved with the team in only three matches of the Moroccan League. His appearance in the CAF Super Cup will be the first time with the Moroccan team.
Al Ahly holds the record for the greatest number of CAF Super Cup titles, having won seven times out of the nine finals they have played. Al Ahly last won the CAF Super Cup in May 2021, beating RS Berkane 2-0 in Doha.
Meanwhile, Raja appears in the CAF Super Cup for the fourth time. They won the title twice before, latest being in 2019 defeating Tunisia’s Esperance 2-1 in Doha too.
Egypt’s Al Ahly and Morocco’s Raja (right) players train on the eve of their CAF Super Cup at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil