The 13th edition of the FIFA Club World Cup is just around the corner and the official squad lists for six of the seven clubs set to compete at Japan 2016 have now been confirmed.
The only side missing is that of the host nation, who will be represented by the J-League champions. On Saturday 3 December the second leg of the final between Urawa Red Diamonds and Kashima Antlers will be played, with the former going into the fixture with a 1-0 advantage.
The other six teams have already published their official 23-man squad lists.
Despite losing some of the members of their triumphant Copa Libertadores side, Atletico Nacional will still travel to Japan with a strong team. That includes goalkeeper Franco Armani, who did not concede a single goal during the group stage of that tournament; captain Alexis Henriquez, the only Colombian player to have won the Libertadores twice, having done so the first time with Once Caldas; and striker Miguel Borja. Nevertheless, Los Verdolagas will head to Japan affected by the Chapecoense tragedy, which struck as the Brazilian team were flying to Medellin to play Atletico in the Copa Sudamericana final.
UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid, who will play their first match in Yokohama on Thursday 15 December, return to the competition with 13 of the players who lifted the title at Morocco 2014, where they beat San Lorenzo in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Keylor Navas will all participate, but the biggest absence will be Gareth Bale, who recently underwent surgery on his right ankle in London. The good news is that Germany's Toni Kroos has recovered from injury in time to be included. Only five players have ever won a hat-trick of Club World Cups, and both the FIFA World Cup™ winner Kroos and Ronaldo will be eager to join that exclusive club.
Auckland City, who will appear at the tournament for an eighth time, arrive with 14 of the players who represented the club at last year's edition. One name to stand out on their list is the unexpected return of Ivan Vicelich. The legendary Navy Blue player, who was not at the 2015 showdown, had originally decided to end his lengthy playing career after sustaining an injury at the start of the season, but after Yousif Al-Khalisy was ruled out Vicelich took the No15 shirt. The veteran will thus be available for Ramon Tribulietx as part of both the playing and coaching staff, simultaneously fulfilling his present and future roles in the team.
Club America, making their third tilt at the Club World Cup, have 16 players with experience at the tournament - more than any other side – and will be out for revenge following their disappointing exit last year. Paul Aguilar is definitely absent as he continues his recovery from a cruciate ligament tear in his right knee, but internationals Moises Munoz and Oribe Peralta will feature, alongside ambitious newcomers such as Silvio Romero.
*Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors *will go into the competition in excellent form and full of confidence after recently being crowned Asian champions. Chief among the star names in their squad are veteran striker Lee Donggook and Brazilian duo Leonardo and Edu.
The standout name in the ensemble of African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who kick off their opening match on 11 December in Osaka, is Khama Billiat. Another player to keep an eye on is Tiyani Mabunda, as well as Colombia's Leonardo Castro and the only actual Brazilian in the side nicknamed The Brazilians: Ricardo Nascimento.
The stage is very nearly set. While the only thing missing is the name of the last participating team, the hosts, a star-studded line-up is taking shape and an exciting tournament is guaranteed.