Japan is ready to host the seven teams looking to end the year as the kings of world football. This, the 12th FIFA Club World Cup, is the seventh to be held in Japan and will feature one club who has never appeared in the tournament before. River Plate will compete for the first time alongside Auckland City, Barcelona, Club America, Guangzhou Evergrande, and TP Mazembe who are joined by Japan’s club champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima as Club World Cup hosts in the quest to succeed Real Madrid as the champions.
With their galaxy of star players, Barcelona will head to East Asia as firm favourites to continue Europe’s domination of the tournament, the continent having provided seven of the last eight winners. The Spanish giants are looking for their third Club World Cup title after wins in 2011 and 2009. Barça also finished second at Japan 2006.
The other six sides in the competition know that beating Barça will be no easy task. That does not mean to say, however, they will be going to Japan to make up the numbers. River Plate are a case in point. Still buoyed by their first Copa Libertadores win in 19 years, Los Millonarios boast a tightly knit squad and plenty of Argentinian grit, which should make them dangerous opponents. The same can be said of Mexico’s Club America. Though their form has been inconsistent of late, they do not lack experience and are determined to give Mexican football something to smile about following recent disappointments for the country’s teams in the competition.
Another side that will not be short of incentives are Japan champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who will have home support behind them as they look to challenge some of the world’s top teams and improve on their fifth-place finish at the Club World Cup in 2012. Likewise, Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande of China PR and TP Mazembe of Congo DR, who claimed Africa’s Champions League crown, will both head into the competition on a high after enjoying a year to remember, while New Zealand’s Auckland City are looking to replicate the success they enjoyed in Morocco last year, with their bronze medal a clear reminder they can compete on this international stage.
The actions starts on 10 December, with Osaka and Yokohama providing the tournament venues. All that remains to be seen is who will succeed Real Madrid and take on the mantle of world club champions?
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