Tonight, the first of November, will not be like any other night for Al Hilal fans – their club being the sole representative of the Arabs in the final of the Asian Champions League.
The very well recognised passionate fans of Al Hilal will come in numbers as they enter the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh expecting a turn around of their misfortunes in the first leg. They will not settle down for anything less than the entire team lifting the trophy as the night folds into the not so cool Riyadh-ish temperature.
However, the Mooj Al-Azraq or the blue wave might end up stuttering. They may endure grief and pain if their “chosen ones” cannot get rid of nervousness, the psychological pressure involved and most importantly the mistakes that were made. Few important points worth raising here:
1. Wasted opportunities
Al Hilal clearly dominated the first leg in terms of game play displaying superior technical ability compared to the Aussies. But it did not translate into goals. The reason could be that for some reason, the players believed and were convinced that they would be crowned the champions of Asia even before the game had begun.
This led to positive self-confidence with a passive performance eventually leading to wasted opportunities in front of goal.
If this continues, Al Hilal will end up paying a similar price as to what had happened in Sydney.
2. Lacking the ability to understand the mentality of the opposing coach
WSW’s Tony Popovic was waiting for the right moment. He kept his best striker Tomi Juric on the bench until introducing him in the 58th minute to pitch in offensively. And an introduction it was – as Juric ended up scoring the precious winning goal in the first leg.
On the other hand, Al Hilal’s Laurențiu Reghecampf was not able to impart his wisdom in terms of changes after witnessing the consistent onslaught of wasted opportunities having only intervened with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
3. Relying on the attackers to win it
As it stands in Middle Eastern football, much of the belief is placed on the offensive lineup or the individual ability of the strikers. In Al Hilal’s case that had been exaggerated in the first leg, which resulted the offensive lineup, taking the blame.
To avoid similar misfortune, the visible empty space between the two lines needs to narrow down. The focus needs to be on combined movement of the players on both fronts, rather than leaving the attackers do their thing in isolation.
4. Patience of the fans
Finally, the home fans will bear significant responsibility for the club to make it to the penalty shoot-out, at the least.
The fans need to be patient and should encourage positivity from the moment the whistle goes off to the end, and should refrain from demanding urgency in scoring that decisive goal so as to avoid placing the team under pressure, even if the outcome turns out to be contrary to what was planned.
Furthermore, Al Hilal’s management threw in an added incentive for winning the Asian Champions League as motivation for the team to perform. Each member will be given SAR 500,000 ($133,269) if they end up as Champions.
In addition to that, Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, an honorary member of the club has promised to provide SAR 100,000 ($26,653) for each player if the team completed their Asian task successfully. The Prince had also purchased consolidated game day grandstand tickets in the King Fahd International Stadium, distributing them for free to the public that will make up the blue wave.
Al Hilal had trained under closed doors since Wednesday so as the players could focus and be prepared psychologically, according to Reghecampf.
Whereas Tony Popovic had forced players to train under the sun, for them to get used to the atmosphere in Riyadh, despite the fact that the match would be held in the evening. However, WSW will be missing their fans in Riyadh with reports suggesting that only 14 fans were issued visas to visit Saudi Arabia for the final – one being a woman.
It is certain that the 90 minutes in Riyadh will be decisive, not only for the Al Hilal fans, but for Saudi Arabia as a nation and the Middle East as a region in general. Especially, if this win could take them to the FIFA World Club Championship in Morocco at the end of the year.