Sepahan start as favourites
© AFP

The FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 opens on Friday with the meeting between Waitakere United and Sepahan at the Tokyo National Stadium. Both teams are present at the gathering of the world's best clubs for the first time.

The game
Sepahan - Waitakere United, Tokyo, Friday, 7 December, 7.45 pm (local time)

The stakes
Both teams will be determined to mark their tournament debut with a win and a place in the quarter-finals. Sepahan are likely to be especially fired up for the opener, as the Iranians would progress to a re-match with Urawa Red Diamonds, their recent conquerors by a slender margin in the AFC Champions League final. Waitakere United rate as rank outsiders, but have absolutely nothing to lose and are determined to prove worthy representatives of New Zealand football on the international stage. The Tokyo crowd can look forward to an intriguing and closely-fought contest.

The players
Waitakere United will be at full strength, but Sepahan stars Moharram Navidikia and Mahmoud Karimi may miss out with injury.

The past
It is the second meeting between sides from the OFC and AFC federations at the FIFA Club World Cup. In 2006, Jeonbuk Hyundai of the Korea Republic defeated New Zealand side Auckland City 3-0.

Sepahan are the first Iranian club to take part at the FIFA Club World Cup, whereas Waitakere United are the second team from New Zealand to have a shot at the trophy: Auckland City appeared in 2006 but suffered defeats to Al Ahly (2-0) and Jeonbuk Hyundai (3-0).

The words
"I began my coaching career 18 years ago in New Zealand. I'm well informed about Waitakere. They're very strong in the air and play like an English club with long, high balls. It's never easy against this kind of team. We'll be as focused for this match as we were for the Champions League final." Luka Bonacic, Sepahan coach

"We're proud to be here in Japan. It's a tremendous opportunity to represent our confederation with pride. I watched Sepahan in the AFC Champions League final. They fell to a very narrow defeat. We'll have to interrupt their rhythm and play on the break. Sepahan play a completely different game than we're used to, but that's what's so good about this tournament." Chris Milicich, Waitakere United coach