Wydad Coach’s Bold Claim: Al Ahly Won’t Dominate Us as Sundowns Did
Wydad Athletic Club’s head coach, Sven Vandenbroeck, is confident that his team won’t be dominated by Al Ahly in the final, just as Mamelodi Sundowns did in the semi-finals. Despite praising Sundowns as the best team in Africa, Vandenbroeck acknowledged that progressing to face the Egyptian giants was a challenging journey.
Taking charge just two weeks before the match, Vandenbroeck focused on the mental aspect of galvanizing his team rather than emphasizing football training tactics after replacing Juan Carlos Garrido.
Recognizing the strengths of the opponents, the coach prioritized defense and mental training, implementing special exercises derived from a Belgian psychologist. The impact was evident, as the team’s attitude underwent a positive transformation within a short period.
Analyzing the opponent firsthand allowed Vandenbroeck to identify the team’s dynamics, leaders, and key players. Based on these observations, he devised effective tactics but credits the players for executing them on the pitch. While the coach provided guidance and instructions, it was the players who showcased their quality and mentality, earning his immense admiration.
Regarding the tactical approach employed against Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld, Vandenbroeck admitted that the focus was primarily on defense.
Sundowns’ qualities and strengths demanded defensive prowess from Wydad, and approximately 70% of their training was dedicated to defensive strategies, such as determining defensive roles and marking midfielders on the opposite side. However, Sundowns’ fluid movements posed challenges in picking up players, amplified by the loud support of their home fans.
Vandenbroeck emphasizes the importance of experience and maturity, citing Wydad’s semi-final appearances in the past five years. Their collective wisdom proved invaluable over the two legs against Sundowns.
Looking ahead to the final against Al Ahly, the coach anticipates a more balanced game, where Wydad can showcase their own style of play. Despite expecting Al Ahly to seek revenge for last year’s final, Vandenbroeck believes the upcoming match will allow Wydad to leverage their familiarity with their opponents.
Wydad now shifts focus to a quarter-final tie in the Throne Cup against Difaâ Hassani El Jadidi, taking place on Wednesday evening as they return home.