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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win over Al Ahly

The talking points from Real Madrid’s Club World Cup semi-final win.

Al Ahly v Real Madrid CF: Semi Final - FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022 Photo by Pedro Castillo/Real Madrid via Getty Images

Real Madrid are into the Club World Cup final, so we have a lot to discuss after they beat Al Ahly 4-1 to make it to the showpiece event against Al Hilal on Saturday. We had many questions before this tournament started and now we have several others after this fairly convincing semi-final victory. So, let’s break them down below.

Three answers

1. Would Al Ahly TV be right in their Modrić and Kroos wish?

Al Ahly TV got their wish. In the build-up to this match, as their in-house journalists previewed the game, they explained that they wanted both Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos to start, because they felt it would be easier to win the ball back off the midfield if the two veterans played. They got their wish in the fact that the Croatian and German started, but would their prediction work out as planned? Well, they were half right. This wasn’t the best Modrić game, and not because of the penalty miss, as the Croatian lost possession 13 times and had just 88% passing, lower than usual numbers for him. Kroos, though, was his usual self and lost possession just seven times, the second-lowest in the team, while registering 95% passing, including five out of five long balls. It was a strange wish for Al Ahly TV to make, and they didn’t get the victory they hoped for despite giving Real Madrid a good game.

2. Would Vinícius benefit from some time playing outside of Spain?

Given how difficult every away match in Spain is for Vinícius right now, many felt this Club World Cup in Morocco could be a good chance for him to escape the toxic environment surrounding him in Spanish football and refocus on the game itself. Would that prove to be the case? Well, he had a very good performance, making and scoring the opening goal himself and then having two strong penalty appeals, only one of which was given. But, a lot of the issues he has suffered when playing in LaLiga were actually present here too. He was heavily fouled by the opposition right-back – Mohamed Hany – in the very first minute. He had other clear fouls waved away by the referee, including the first penalty claim. He got into arguments with opposition players. And, he had to be told to keep calm by the referee. So, Vinícius put in one of his better performances of the season, but a lot of the extra-curricular stuff actually still existed in this game just as much as it does in Spanish competitions.

3. Would we experience the NFL-style VAR announcements?

FIFA’s shiny new toy for the Club World Cup was the referees being mic’d up and explaining VAR decisions. We’re certainly not used to this, so would we see it in this game? Well, not with the first Real Madrid penalty shout, when Vinícius first went down, but we did get a call over the stadium speakers when the second Vinícius penalty claim was eventually given. But, rather than an explanation, it was basically just an announcement of the decision. Anyone who’d been watching other Club World Cup matches would have already seen this and already realised that this wasn’t anything ground-breaking. If referees are actually going to explain their decisions then great. If it’s just announcing what we can already see through their hand signals, then it changes nothing.

Three questions

1. Can Alaba move to left-back soon and rescue Camavinga?

This was Eduardo Camavinga’s worst performance at left-back so far, and nobody can be particularly angry at him since he shouldn’t have to play left-back in the first place. Although he once again did well when he was brining the ball forward in attack, he really suffered against Hussein El Shahat and also conceded the penalty from which Al Ahly got their goal. Given all the full-back and centre-back injuries elsewhere, Camavinga was still the best solution for that position, but he’ll be hoping that Militão can return to central defence soon, so that Alaba can start his shift as the left-back replacement for the injured Mendy.

2. Was this low-key Lunin’s best performance with Real Madrid?

With Thibaut Courtois out injured, Andriy Lunin got the start and made his 14th appearance for Real Madrid. And, low key, this might have been the best of the lot so far. He was good in a late season game against Cádiz last campaign and in the 3-1 Clásico win earlier this LaLiga season, but Lunin made a couple of really good stops in this game, even if it was only four saves overall. Was this his best performance for Real Madrid so far? The sample size isn’t all that large, so it might just be.

3. When will Valverde hit the 10-goal target?

Fede Valverde spoke in a pre-semi-final player press conference, where he was very honest about how he is in bad form and how Uruguay’s early World Cup exit has affected him. So, how much good will tonight’s goal do for his confidence. He was able to pick up the ball and finish so cooly to put Real Madrid two goals up that he’ll surely be feeling some of the confidence he had before the World Cup. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be long before he scores again and, when he does, he’ll have already hit the 10-goal target that Ancelotti set for him for this season.

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