The Club World Cup kicks off in Yokohama tonight with J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima taking on Oceania representatives, Auckland City FC.
Hajime Moriyasu’s side clinched their third title in four years last weekend after completing a 4-3 aggregate victory over Gamba Osaka in the play-off Final. The much heralded 21-year-old striker, Takuma Asano, recently named the Young Player of the Year in Japan, came off the bench to win the tie for Hiroshima and he now has a chance to showcase his undoubted talent to a much wider audience.
Sanfrecce will go in to the game as favorites, but shouldn’t take the New Zealand side lightly. Ramon Tribulietx’s men have appeared in more Club World Cups than any other team and have been improving every year. Last year they became the first Oceania team to reach the semi-finals and only missed out on a place in the final after 2-1 extra time defeat to Argentinian side San Lorenzo.
If Hiroshima can beat Auckland they will face Congo DR side TP Mazembe in the quarter finals. They caused a major shock five years ago when they reached the final and remain the sole African side to have gotten that far. On the other side of the draw, Mexican team Club America will take on Asian Champions Guangzhou Evergrande from China. The big boys – Barcelona and River Plate – will enter at the semifinal stages. The South American champion’s first match is in Osaka on the 16th, while Messi, Neymar, Suarez and co. play their first game on the 17th at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium. The final will also take place there on December 20.
The opening match kicks off at 19:45 and will be broadcast on Nihon TV. You can see a schedule at the FIFA site