The Green Boys’ sum of achievements at the 2013 Fifa Club World Cup exceeded expectations despite losing the final 2-0 to favourites Bayern Munich
Raja Casablanca coach Faouzi Benzarti spoke to reporters after his side dared the impossible, but lost to European champions Bayern Munich 2-0 in the final of the 2013 Fifa Club World Cup in Marrakesh on Saturday.
“We fought a good fight, I’m proud of my team. A new adventure opens for the entire outfit and it has been an eye opener for other clubs in the country and beyond," he said.
Few pundits had tipped the Moroccan league champions to progress from the playoff and local fans had been more enthused by the tournament itself.
After their first two victories against Auckland City 2-1 and Monterrey 2-1 in the playoff and quarterfinals respectively, Benzarti and his men began to win admirers not only in the Kingdom but across the north African region, with almost every new footballer lover becoming a fan of Raja.
The elimination of hopefuls and African Champions Al Ahly caused more supporters to align themselves with Raja, as the team progressed steadily in the tournament and gained media attention.
Morocco did not qualify for the upcoming Fifa World Cup in Brazil but Raja’s presence and inspiring performances at the Club World Cup provided some boisterous football moments shared by fans nationwide irrespective of their membership to other local clubs.
Raja’s 3-1 triumph over the Ronaldinho-led South American champions Atletico Mineiro sent millions of fans in the country into raptures, as not even coach Benzarti had thought his side could reach the final of the tournament and become the second African team to play in the Club World Cup final after TP Mazembe in 2010.
The aims and objectives of Raja had been surpassed. Facing Bayern Munich in the final was more of an honour. They knew defeating the Bavarians was a near-impossible task and that reproaches would be mild from all quarters if they simply finished as finalists. However, what Benzarti was frightened of was a humiliation in the range of a 5-0, 6-1, etc, which his team was able to avoid in front of 37,000 staunch fans.
Goals from Dante and Thiago Alcantara after 22 minutes settled the matter for Bayern to claim their fifth title of the season. However, after controlling the flow of the match in the first half, Bayern lost some ground in the second half to Raja, who also created a number of clear cut chances that threatened the German back half.
A careless pass from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer gifted unmarked Chemseddine Chtibi a ball near the box but the Morocco international midfielder struck wide of an empty net.
Mouhssine Iajour’s close range header in the 57th minute from Zakaria El Hachimi’s right wing cross could've brought Raja back into the game but Neuer intervened to save his side. Vivien Madibe, who received a ball inside the box with only Neuer to beat, crashed his effort against the keeper, with onrushing captain Mouhcine Moutouali failing to hit home the rebound.
Like Benzarti said, Raja fought a good fight, as good as they could, against the best club in the world right now, and even though they lost 2-0, they gained considerable kudos for an outstanding outing at their first Fifa Club World Cup. Raja also acquired vital experience for future challenges both at home and abroad.