The opening match of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012 will see Sanfrecce Hiroshima take on Auckland City FC in the International Stadium Yokohama, with the winners earning themselves a quarter-final tie against Egypt's Al-Ahly SC.
In what has been a historic season for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, the club won their maiden J.League title last month, thanks in no small part to 22 goals from their leading striker Hisato Sato. The victory also earned them a berth at Japan 2012, where they will be eager to test themselves on the world stage.
The debutants will be facing an experienced Auckland team, with the OFC O-League champions having already graced the FIFA Club World Cup on three prior occasions, in 2006, 2009 and 2011. Last year the New Zealanders also faced the reigning J.League champions in the first round and put up a brave fight before eventually losing 2-0 to Kashiwa Reysol.
4 – This is the fourth time that Auckland will contest the opening match of a FIFA Club World Cup. On the three previous occasions, the Oceania representatives recorded two defeats, against Al-Ahly in 2006 and Kashiwa Reysol in 2011, and one win, in 2009, again versus Al-Ahly.
"Auckland are a good team with physical players. When it comes down to it though, we'll play our usual game, try to create chances and hopefully take some of them," Hisato Sato, Sanfrecce Hiroshima captain.
"We've watched how Hiroshima play and seen that they're a technically very good team with some excellent players like Hisato Sato, Mihail Mikic and Koji Morisaki. We know it'll be tough since they've got some of the most skilful players in the Japanese league in their ranks. We'll prepare as best we can and then see how it goes. Anything can happen in football, and we'll give it our best," Ramon Tribulietx, Auckland coach.