Africa: It’s Time for USM Alger to Win a Continental Title – Zouari
Playing in their second continental final, USM Alger are seeking to clinch their first ever crown. Winger Abdelkrim Zouari believes it is time for the Algerian outfit to go all out for their first ever piece of Continental glory as they prepare to face Tanzania’s Young Africans in the final of the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup.
They previously played in the final of the 2015 TotalEnergies CAF Champions League, losing 4-1 on aggregate against Congolese giants TP Mazembe.
The first leg is penciled for the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam while the return fixture will be played in Algiers next Saturday.
Zouari spoke to CAFOnline outlining the team’s ambition and readiness to face the Tanzanian side.
Q. How have the preparations been ahead of the first leg meeting with Yanga?
Preparations have been okay and in very good conditions. We have been working with a very good program designed by the technical staff and we hope to be ready in time for the first leg match in Dar es Salaam.
Q. It has been widely stated that since the arrival of coach Benchikha, things have changed in the team. Would you say the same?
We are currently playing in the final of the Confederation Cup and that is testament enough. We were used to playing on one level, and now we are on another level. It is certain that the coach has his touch and employed his African experience that he gained with other clubs. He has given us a lot of his experience and we want to repay him in the final.
Q. Many observers have picked you out as favorites after your win over FAR Rabat. Do you think you are?
One match cannot guarantee you a favorite tag for the final. For us we are focused on the match and doing what the technical staff require of us. We will do everything to try win this title on the pitch.
Q. There are only three players in the team who have previously played in a continental final, and the rest have not reached a similar level. Do you see the lack of experience as an obstacle?
Those who ha e not reached a Continental final will compensate that lack of experience with will and enthusiasm. We know very well what awaits us in the final, and we trust ourselves, and more than that we know the opponent we will face.
Q. USM Alger have won domestic title, but never a continental title. Are you aware of the scale of responsibility on your shoulders as a team?
We are in the final and that says a lot about how hard we have worked. We want to be crowned champions and we will work hard for that. We want to win this for our fans and Algerian football as a whole.
Q. Do you feel a lot of pressure on your shoulders as you chase history?
There is always pressure for results in Algerian football, and when you wear the colors of a big club, there must be similar pressure. In any case, we will deal with this matter with confidence, experience and rationality in order to manage our situation well.
Q. All players are speaking about dedicating this title to your departed teammate, the late Bilal Ben Hammouda. Does this inspire the team going into the final?
This is a motivation for the players. We are united as a team and the fans as well to try and win this trophy to dedicate it to the family of our late teammate.
Q. Parting shot?
I would like to tell the USM Alger fans and Algerian football fans in general that we will do everything to make them happy. We will go to Tanzania and try do well in the first half of the task. We will play the second half in Algeria and I know the supporters will turn out in large numbers to push us.