Sundowns labelled as the best on the continent
'Maybe at this point they are the best team in Africa,' said Aritz Lopez Garai.
Aritz Lopez Garai has heaped praise on Mamelodi Sundowns. Picture: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
The pressure of Mamelodi Sundowns securing a second CAF Champions League title was heightened by their triumph in the African Football League (AFL).
As if the weight of expectations to emulate the class of 2016 to win Africa’s premeir club competition is not heavy enough, FC Nouadhibou coach Aritz Lopez Garai has branded Sundowns as the best team on the continent and one of the favourites for this season’s crown.
Under then coach Pitso Mosimane, the Brazilians made history by capturing the club’s first ever continental championship to become the second club in South Africa to lift the coveted trophy after Orlando Pirates went all the way in 1995.
“I even said before the game that maybe at this point they are the best team in Africa,” Lopez said following his side’s 3-0 to Masandawana on Sunday at Loftus Versfeld.
“They play with the ball and without the ball they press. Their fans are fantastic and the atmosphere is fantastic.
“They have good coaches and I think they are one of the favourites. Wydad and Al-Ahly have a lot of power to win but for me Mamelodi Sundowns are one of the favourites to win the champions league.”
On their way to qualifying for the group stages, the Spaniard and his team shocked the continent by sending Al Ahly Tripoli and Rèal Bamako crashing out of the competition in the preliminary rounds.
‘A big miracle’
“The championship in South Africa is very strong and it’s different from our league,” he said.
“We play a lot of games and we win but when we play opponents of this level it becomes difficult. We played away but when we play at home it will be different.
“It was different for my players to play this kind of opponent and I feel they were a bit nervous with the ball because we don’t normally lose the ball but Sundowns press very good.
“We learn in this competition. For us to be here is a big miracle. There has never been a Mauritanian team that played in the Champions League.”