Raja Casablanca Chasing Fairytale Result Against Bayern Munich
The night of the 18th December will go down in footballing history, and for two reasons. Firstly, it saw Modibo Maïga, a goalscorer about as ‘natural’ as the triple-breasted mutant sex worker from Total Recall, score the winner for West Ham in a 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur. But it also saw Maïga’s old club, Raja Casablanca of Morocco, overcome second favourites Atlético Mineiro 3-1 to progress to the 2013 Club World Cup Final. There they’ll face the UEFA Champions League winners and all-round behemoth, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.
Raja Casablanca v Bayern Munich Betting Odds
Raja Casablanca win – 36.00
Draw – 11.50
Bayern Munich win – 1.08
(All odds provided by GEObet.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Raja were rank outsiders going into the tournament. That they’re playing at all isn’t down to victory in their continent’s premier club competition (they didn’t even qualify for the 2013 CAF Champions League), but because the Club World Cup is being held in their home country, of which they were domestic champions in the 2012-13 season. They boast no superstars, and indeed seem awed to be in such esteemed company as Atlético and Bayern; as the final whistle blew in yesterday evening’s win, Raja players swarmed around Ronaldinho, hugging and kissing the Brazilian as they jostled for his jersey and even his boots.
But their performances so far have proved that they deserve to be here. Whereas the European and South American entrants were seeded and thus entered at the semi-final stage, Raja had to beat Auckland City in a playoff and Monterrey in the quarters before they could share a stage with Ronaldinho and co. The Auckland result was an impressive 2-1 win. Against Monterrey, the same scoreline, though this time it took an extra-time header from Ivorian midfielder Kouko Guehi to secure their passage. And most impressive of all, that 3-1 win against Atlético, where two incisive breakaway goals and a converted penalty were enough to eclipse a trademark Ronaldinho free kick.
This wasn’t luck, nor was it a case of the Brazilians not taking things seriously; on the contrary, Galo have been preparing for the competition for months. Rather, it was an impressive and hard-working set of players driven to victory in large part by a vocal and fanatical home support. As Dear Leader Sepp Blatter pointed out on Twitter after the game, it’s great news that the first Club World Cup held in Africa will have an African team playing in the final (even if personal preference Al-Ahly, team of the retiring Mohamed Aboutrika, have failed so miserably).
Bayern’s route to the final, as the seeding system dictates, has been a tad less romantic. On Tuesday, they defeated Guangzhou Evergrande, managed by Marcello Lippi, captained by Zheng Zhi and powered by Darío Conca, 3-0. And that’s it. Guardiola, though, is taking the tournament at least semi-seriously. Ominously for Raja, the scorers that evening were Ribéry, Mandžukić and Götze, with no Dale Jennings-like youngsters in sight.
So, what should we expect from the final? Well, probably a battering. Though Raja have impressed so far, Auckland and Monterrey, it’s probably fair to say, represent an easier challenge than, y’know, the best team in the world. Even Atlético, though possessing a dynamic and extremely talented front three, were a defensive shambles in the semi-final. Raja will have the fans on side, and in all likelihood a set of players who’ll want the win more than their opponents. But they’ll also be facing, y’know, THE BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD.
Still, you never know, and with a potential centre back pairing of Jérôme Boateng and Daniel van Buyten, Raja at least have a fighting chance of nicking a goal. Striker Mouhcine Iajour, a Casablanca native and Morocco international, has been in good form during the tournament, picking up two goals so far. If he can nab a few more against Bayern, he’ll forever have a place in the history of Moroccan football as Raja Casablanca become Champions Of The World. And if not, maybe they could persuade Modibo Maïga to come back.
Betting Instinct Tip: Bayern Munich to win by 3 or more goals is 1.68 with Bulldog777.com
KIERAN DODDS is a history student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and others.