The 18th FIFA Club World Cup™ kicks off on Thursday
The United Arab Emirates will host the competition for the fifth time
The champions will be crowned on Saturday, 12 February
The 18th FIFA Club World Cup™ gets underway on Thursday when Al Jazira take on AS Pirae in the opening match. The hosts’ domestic champions are joined at this year’s tournament by the club champions from each of the world’s six confederations, who will battle it out over eight games for the most prestigious prize in global club football. As the tournament draws closer, the footballing world is abuzz with questions. Who will lift the trophy on 12 February? Can Chelsea go all the way this time after falling short in the 2012 final? Or will this be the first time that a club outside of CONMEBOL or UEFA reigns supreme? Before the action begins, we give you the lowdown on the tournament and the teams taking part.
Reigning UAE Pro League champions Al Jazira will make history this week by playing in their second Club World Cup since 2017 – the first side from the United Arab Emirates ever to do so. They finished fourth five years ago, but can they go even further this time around?
After Auckland City were forced to withdraw from the Club World Cup due to New Zealand’s Covid-19 regulations, Tahitian side AS Pirae were selected to represent the OFC in December. This gives the ten-time champions of Tahiti’s Ligue 1 their first opportunity to step onto the world stage, where they will make their debut against the hosts in the opening match on 3 February. The winners of this game will then face AFC Champions League holders Al Hilal in the third match of the tournament. It will be the Saudi Arabian club’s second appearance at the Club World Cup after an impressive showing in 2019, when they lost narrowly on penalties to Monterrey in the match for third place and had to settle for fourth. The tournament’s second game on 5 February will be the clash of Al Ahly and Monterrey, two teams with plenty of experience in this competition. The Mexican side have qualified on four previous occasions, beating record Egyptian champions Al Ahly on their two prior meetings in 2012 and 2013. The Egyptians are even more experienced in the Club World Cup, having already represented CAF six times – a record only bettered by Auckland City with nine appearances. Last year Al Ahly proved that they deserve their place among the world’s best club sides by beating Palmeiras in the match for third place. Will this be the year that they finally get the better of Monterrey?
Brazilian side Palmeiras are joining the party for the second consecutive years, having snapped up the last ticket to the Club World Cup by winning the Copa Libertadores in November. They will enter the tournament at the semi-final stage, where they will be hoping to record their first-ever victory in the competition. Also entering the fray in the last four are European representatives and UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea, who will be keen to take home the trophy after missing out in 2012. The tournament’s eight matches will be played across two venues in Abu Dhabi: the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and the Al Nahyan Stadium. The latter will be a particular highlight for visiting fans, having only been renovated in 2019.
The reigning champions
Europe provided the winners of the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™, with Bayern Munich defeating Tigres in the final on 11 February 2021 to lift the trophy for the second time since 2013.