With the FIFA Club World Cup fast approaching, the official squad lists have been released for six of the seven clubs competing in Japan. *FIFA.com *takes a look at some of the stars who are set to shine in Osaka and Yokohama.
Japan’s club champion is still to be determined with Gamba Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima locked in a play-off, with the full list of 161 players on the official competition list to be revealed on 7 December once the tournament hosts have been determined.
2015 has been another busy year for international football, with 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™ qualifiers kicking off, USA winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, Serbia claiming their inaugural FIFA U-20 World Cup, Nigeria collecting their second consecutive FIFA U-17 World Cup and hosts Portugal securing the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup on home sand. And now, Japan will host the best of the best to determine the world’s top club team.
Oceania’s representative, Auckland City, are returning to the Club World Cup for a seventh time after their remarkable run at Morocco 2014 where they finished third. Returning to Japan are stars such as defender Mario Bilen and forward Ryan De Vries. However, Ramon Tribulietx’s side will be without club standouts Ivan Vicelich and goalkeeper Tamati Williams when they begin their Club World Cup campaign against the Japanese hosts on 10 December in the play-off for the quarter-finals.
Club America meet AFC Champions League holders Guangzhou Evergrande in the first quarter-final on 13 December. The CONCACAF champions boast an impressive array of Mexican internationals, such as Oribe Peralta, Moises Munoz and Paul Aguilar, along with USA defender Ventura Alvarado and Ecuador attacking midfielder Michael Arroyo.
Meanwhile, the Asian champions have an arsenal of China PR talent, including Zheng Zhi, Gao Lin and Zhang Linpeng. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is also bringing some fellow Brazilians to Japan, with Paulinho and Robinho both making the trip. Perhaps the jewel in the crown, however, is Brazilian striker Ricardo Goulart who was recently named AFC Foreign Player of the Year after finishing as the AFC Champions League top-scorer.
TP Mazembe, Africa’s reigning champions, will square off in the other quarter-final against the winner of the play-off between the tournament hosts and Auckland City. The Congo DR side have a diverse squad with players from around Africa, such as Côte d’Ivoire’s Roger Assale, Tanzania striker Mbwana Samatta, Zambia midfielder Rainford Kalaba and Congo DR goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba.
Copa Libertadores champions River Plate will take a selection of South American stars into their semi-final on 16 December featuring the likes of Javier Saviola, Rodrigo Mora, Lucho Gonzalez and goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero.
And last, but certainly not least, UEFA Champions League holders Barcelona await their semi-final showdown on 17 December. Lining up for the Spanish La Liga and European champions are none other than FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlisted candidates Lionel Messi and Neymar. Joining the duo in Japan in Luis Enrique’s squad is fellow striker Luis Suarez, defenders Girard Pique and Dani Alves, along with Spanish great Andres Iniesta, Argentina’s Javier Mascherano and goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, to name a few.
Die-hard supporters and casual fans alike will be in for a treat when the Club World Cup kicks off on 10 December and no matter which two teams reach the final in Yokohama ten days later, there will be plenty of stars on display to dazzle those watching in Japan and around the world.