Former South American football greats Javier Mascherano and Julio Cesar have both been impressed by Egypt’s Al Ahly at the Club World Cup in Qatar.
The duo said that despite losing 2-0 to European champions Bayern Munich in the semi-finals on Monday, Al Ahly’s performance shows the progress of Egyptian football.
Mascherano, who played 147 times for Argentina, and Brazilian goalkeeper Cesar were talking ahead of Al Ahy’s third-place play-off game against Brazil’s Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras on Thursday.
“They (Al Ahly in their Club World Cup semi-final against Bayern Munich) left a very positive impression on how Egyptian football has evolved in recent years,” said former Liverpool and Barcelona player Mascherano.
“And also how a world-class player, such as Mohamed Salah, has taken Egyptian football to another level.
“Watching Al Ahly shows that Salah is not a one-off, but rather proof of the good work done by Egyptian football when it comes to developing players and being more competitive. And they will surely continue in this way over the coming years.”
Cesar, who earned 87 caps for Brazil and won five Serie A titles with Inter Milan, was also impressed with what he had seen from the nine-time African champions.
“We were able to watch a brave team play against Bayern Munich creating opportunities, mainly with the counter-attack,” he said.
“Bayern Munich are one of the best teams in the world, and maybe the best at present. You can be sure also that Palmeiras will work hard to try to win that third place – without a doubt. They have all that is needed to play a great game.
“I was talking the other day with Kaka that we felt admiration towards Egyptian teams. We had the chance of playing against Egypt in 2009 during the Fifa Confederations Cup (with Brazil winning 4-3 thanks to a last-minute winner) and we were greatly surprised.
“Egyptian football has evolved greatly – the same way with other football teams around the world. And, in turn, that generates more passion for soccer globally.”