RABAT - Real Madrid are favorites for a record-extending fifth success at the Club World Cup, and in the process keeping up European dominance over South America in the annual tournament, which kicks off in Morocco on Wednesday.
Real, who won previously in 2014 and then three successive tournaments from 2016 to 2018, are on course for a showdown with Flamengo of Brazil in the final but both must play a semifinal match first before they can set up an intriguing decider in Rabat on Feb. 11.
European clubs have won the last nine editions of the event, dominating since 2012 when Brazil’s Corinthians beat Chelsea in the final in Japan in a rare South American success.
Last year’s Champions League and Copa Libertadores winners only join once the tournament reaches the final four stage but it begins on Wednesday when Egypt’s Al Ahly, who qualify as one of two African representatives, meet Auckland City in Tangier in an opening playoff tie. The Oceania champions from New Zealand compete for a record 10th time in the tournament against the equally experienced Cairo giants, who are at their eighth Club World Cup.
That winner advances to a quarterfinal clash on Saturday against Seattle Sounders. The U.S. club won last year's CONCACAF Champions League but had a miserable Major League Soccer campaign.
in the fucking louvre pic.twitter.com/TMOzQ9J0bU— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) May 5, 2022
African champions Wydad Casablanca can expect passionate home support for their game the same day against Asian counterparts Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia. Wydad’s squad includes three players from the Morocco team that reached the World Cup semifinal in Qatar in December.
Flamengo will only play their first game in the semifinal on Feb. 7 and Real Madrid one day later.
The tournament will be used to experiment further tweaks to the Video Assistant Referee system as referees will, for the first time, explain the reasons for VAR decisions to the crowd at the stadium and the television audience. During the trial, referees will relay their decisions via a microphone connected to the public address system, though their conversation with video officials will remain private.
The tournament in Morocco is among the last with the current format as FIFA have announced they will host an expanded Club World Cup with 32 teams in mid-2025.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
Factbox on the Club World Cup
RABAT - Factbox for the Club World Cup, which kicks off in Morocco on Wednesday.
The six continental champions, plus the champions of the host country participate. In the case of Morocco, their champions Wydad Casablanca are also African champions, so last season’s African Champions League runners-up Al Ahly of Egypt are also in the field.
Flamengo (Brazil and South America) – 2nd participation
Al Ahly (Egypt and Africa) – 8th participation
Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) – 2nd participation
Auckland City (New Zealand and Oceania) – 10th participation (record)
Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia and Asia) – 3rd participation
Real Madrid (Spain and Europe) – 6th participation
Seattle Sounders (U.S and CONCACAF) - debut
LAST FIVE WINNERS
2021 – Chelsea
2020 – Bayern Munich
2019 – Liverpool
2018 – Real Madrid
2017 – Real Madrid
SCHEDULE (all times ET)
Feb. 1 (Tangier) - Al Ahly vs. Auckland City (2 p.m. on FS2)
Feb. 4 (Rabat) – Wydad Casablanca vs. Al Hilal (9:30 a.m. on FS2)
Feb.4 (Tangier) – Al Ahly/Auckland City vs. Seattle Sounders (12:30 p.m. on FS2)
Feb. 7 (Tangier) – Flamengo vs. Wydad Casablanca/Al Hilal (2 p.m.)
Feb. 8 (Rabat) – Real Madrid vs. Al Ahly/Auckland City/Seattle Sounders (2 p.m.)
Third place playoff
Feb. 11 (Rabat) – Semifinal losers (10:30 a.m.)
Feb. 11 (Rabat) – Semifinal winners (2 p.m.)
(Compiled by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)