Six continental champions are about to embark on a week of fierce competition that will see one of them crowned club world champion. FIFA.com whets your appetite with 10 of the most interesting facts about the past and present of club football's ultimate competition.
1. African champions Al Ahly were chosen by CAF as African Club of the 20th Century in recognition of their long and illustrious history. With 82 national and continental titles among their numerous honours, the Egyptian side currently coached by Manuel José have also set many records in the CAF Champions League, where this year they earned the right to represent their continent in Japan. They had the best goal-scoring record in the 2005 edition, netting 23 times while conceding just 5. Moreover they remained unbeaten in the 14 games they played on the way to lifting the title. If that were not impressive enough, their striker Mahmoud-El Khatib – the only Egyptian player to have won the African Player of the Year award (back in 1983 when it was still awarded by the magazine France Football) – captained Al Ahly to their most recent success. El Khatib is also the leading scorer in Africa's continental tournaments with 37 goals.
2. Saudi Arabia's oldest club, Al Ittihad, have been enjoying a rich vein of form in recent years. They have won five league championships in the last nine seasons, and this year won back the AFC Champions League crown. Planning the team's assault on the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup will be their master tactician, Anghel Iordanescu, who led the Romania national team to the finals of the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups™.
3. Among this year's six representatives, Brazil's Sao Paulo are the only team that can claim to have been world champions. The South Americans lifted the Toyota Cup in 1992 and 1993 under the direction of Tele Santana and with a quality side headed by Rai and Cafu. Although five-times winners of Europe's top trophy, Liverpool have only contested a world club final twice, losing in Japan to Brazil's Flamengo in 1981 and Argentina's Independiente in 1984.
4. Deportivo Saprissa, champions of the North, Central American and Caribbean Confederation, have a policy of only employing native-born or naturalised Costa Rican players. Nicknamed the Purple Monster because of their distinctive colours, they defeated Hugo Sanchez's UNAM Pumas in a highly charged continental final to make it to Japan.
5. Having made their competitive debut only on 7 May this year in the Australian qualifying tournament just prior to the Oceania Club Championship, there can be few clubs in the world as young as Sydney FC. Led by German legend Pierre Littbarski, Sydney, who were founded on 1 November 2004, immediately reeled off eight straight wins to win the continental crown and succeed South Melbourne as Oceania's second representative in a world club competition.
6. With 18 League Championships to their name, Liverpool are England's most successful side. Related or not, they also rank among the clubs with the fewest number of coaches, 16 in their 113-year history, with precious few of them having been sacked. The Mighty Reds have a poor record on the world club stage though and are yet to be called global champions. In fact Manchester United, winners in 1999, are the only English team to have lifted the crown.
7. The very first goal of the Intercontinental Cup was scored by a European, none other than Hungary's "Galloping Major" Ferenc Puskas for Real Madrid in 1960. The first by a South American, Alfredo Di Stefano, was the Spanish side's second in their 5-1 second leg victory over Uruguay's Peñarol at the stadium named after the competition's creator Santiago Bernabeu. Together with the Toyota Cup, 13 different South American clubs had won the "world's best" title, compared with twelve European sides. Of the 11 separate countries to have won it, Argentinian clubs have won the most, nine.
8. Frenchman Nicolas Anelka, playing for Real Madrid, and Romario, donning Vasco da Gama colours, ended the FIFA Club World Championship Brazil 2000 as topscorers with three goals. But the player who has struck most times in the history of world club finals is an even more famous Brazilian. Pele scored seven goals against Benfica and Milan for Santos FC in their back-to-back successes in the 1962 and 1963 editions of the Intercontinental Cup. O Rei has one more goal than Ecuadorian striker Alberto Spencer, who scored six goals for Peñarol in 1960, 1961 and 1966.
9. Some of the all-time greats have walked away or rather driven away with the Man of the Match award at the Toyota Cup. Among them are Zico (Flamengo, 81), Michel Platini (Juventus, 85), Frank Rijkaard (Milan, 90), Vladimir Jugovic (Red Star Belgrade, 91), Rai (Sao Paulo, 92), Alessandro del Piero (Juventus, 96), Andreas Moeller (Borussia Dortmund, 97), Raul (Real Madrid, 98), Ryan Giggs (Manchester United, 99) and Ronaldo (Real Madrid, 2002). This year FIFA’s Technical Study Group will evaluate the performance of the players during the course of the seven games, before deciding who warrants the prestigious adidas Golden, Silver and Bronze Balls.
10. Passion has always accompanied the fight for the right to be named the world's best club. When European sides appeared to lack total conviction in the late 70s and early 80s, South America swept to victory. The Old Continent returned to the top and won five on the trot from 1995-99. Such was the expectancy in 2000 when Argentina's Boca Juniors played Spain's Real Madrid that inmates of Argentina's Encausados prison rioted in a desperate bid to obtain a television to watch the final. The convicts' demands may have met with failure, but at least Boca, led by Juan Roman Riquelme's ability to keep the ball, won the battle ending European domination.