The annual battle of the confederations resumes at the club level with the 2013 FIFA Clubcommencing in Morocco on Wednesday. The tournament is seeing a few familiar faces, while South American and European giants will enter a bigger international realm for the first time.
Seven clubs will battle for the worlds best, and FC Bayern München will hope to restore the European supremacy after South America gathered its fourth title a year ago. Here's a snapshot of the field coming from all over the world
Raja Casablanca – Hosts
Due to being the winner of the Botola, the top league in Morocco, Raja Casablanca qualifies for the playoff round bearing the burden of the host country. The Green Eagles finished with 66 points an an impressive +32 goal differential, impressive because it was double the goal differential of second place FAR Rabat. Part of the Confederation of African Football, Raja Casablanca did not take part of the CAF Champions League, Moghreb Tétouan and FUS Rabat represented the Botola. The club has five players who have appeared with the Moroccan national team – Ismail Benlamalem, Abdeliah Hafidi, Viven Mabide, Mohamed Oulhaj, and Yassine Salhi.
Raja Casablanca lost their three group games in the 2000 FIFA Club World Cup in Brazil, falling to Corinthians, Al-Nassr, and Real Madrid. Two of their players have played in a Club World Cup before – Deo Kanda with Tout Puissant Mazembe Englebert from Congo and Irdissa Coulibaly with Espérance Sportive de Tunis from Tunisia. A victory in their playoff will ensure a spot in the quarterfinals.
Auckland City FC – OFC Champion
The New Zealand club qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup with a 2-1 victory over cross-town mates Waitakere United in the OFC Champions League. It was the 5th title for Auckland City FC, although their Oceania success has not translated to the FIFA Club World Cup. Auckland City has only won two out of their seven matches in their participating years (2006, 2009, 2011, and 2012), their biggest victory coming against TP Mazembe of the D.R. Congo in 2009.
The Navy Blues lost to Waitakere United in the final stages of the eight-team ASB Premiership, although they have won it four times. As runners-up they qualified for the 2014 OFC Champions League, which will start in April in Fiji. The biggest blow for Auckland City is that Spanish striker Manel Expósito, their top scorer from 2012/13, transferred to KAS Eupen, part of the second division in Belgium. Fellow Spaniards Albert Riera and Gustavo Souto, who had 16 and 7 league appearances respectively, are no longer Auklanders as well, so the side traveling to Morocco is no longer the one that had international success.
Guangzhou Evergrande FC – AFC Champion
One of the last entrants in the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup, Guangzhou Evergrande FC qualified with a 3-3 aggregate, away-goals-rule victory over FC Seoul in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League. The Chinese club bombarded the AFC Champions League field with 36 goals, and it only lost one game throughout the entire tournament. Guangzhou's success came partially due to Lucas Barrios, the former Borussia Dortmund striker scoring three goals in six appearances in the group stage.
The Chinese champions will be one of the fresher clubs in the tournament, winning the Chinese "FA Cup" on Saturday to complete the Asian treble. Guangzhou Evergrande won the 30-match Chinese Super League with 77 points and a +60 goal differential, thanks in part to 24 goals from Elkeson, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder who Guangzhou bought from Botafogo of the Brazilian Serie A.
With fifteen players on the Chinese national team, Guangzhou Evergrande will go to their first FIFA Club World Cup, an achievement the Evergrande Real Estate Group will hope brings international awareness to its expensive football investment.
Al-Ahly SC – CAF Champion
The great story that is Al-Ahly SC continues. The Red Devils, the most successful football club in Egypt, appeared in the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup just 10 and a half months removed from the infamous riot at Port Said Stadium that killed 79 people. Playing in the Osman Ahmed Osman Stadium in Cairo, Al-Ahly did not participate in domestic football during the past two years. However, the CAF allowed them to play in the Champions League, and Al-Ahly won its eighth title with a 3-1 aggregate victory over South African side Orlando Pirates, its 16 continental title (only Boca Juniors and AC Milan have more).
Al-Ahly SC enters the 2013 Club World Cup with the most experience, sharing the appearance record with Auckland City with five – 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2013. Mohamed Aboutrika led the team in scoring with four goals, which included the eventual title-clinching goal in the home leg of the CAF Finals. Having a bronze Club World Cup trophy in its case, Al-Ahly will try an advance to the semifinal to keep its spirit high.
Monterrey CF – CONCACAF Champion
Los Rayados are back for the third consecutive year, once again the class of CONCACAF. The Mexican Club was down 2-0 on aggregate to Santos Laguna going into the last half an hour of the final home leg, then exploded with four goals to sink its Mexican rivals for the CONCACAF crown.
Unfortunately, Monterrey's fantastic continental form has not translated to league success. In the Apertura of Liga MX, Monterrey collected 20 points in 17 matches, not qualifying for the quarterfinals. Paired with their semifinal exit against Club America in the Clausura, Monterrey failed to re-qualify for the 2012/13 CONCACAF Champions League. Monterrey's form has not spread to Humberto Suazo, who has scored 14 goals in the Apertura, although the loss of Jesús Corona to FC Twente in the Eredivisie will not help matters. Coming in with the worst form of the Club World Cup bunch, Monterrey will want to jack themselves up before the Clausura.
Atlético Minero – CONMEBOL Champion
The heralded Brazilian club turned a second place finish in Serie A and turned it into a thrilling victory in the Copa Libertadores. Alecsandro, Guilherme, Jô and Leonardo Silva all hit their penalties to lift Atlético Minero over Paraguayan side Olympio to secure the title. Due to Corinthians' 2012 FIFA Club World Cup victory over Chelsea, Atlético Minero booked themselves a place in the last semifinal.
The negative aspect about Atlético Minero is their lack of success since the continental victory. It has recorded 12 wins, 12 draws, and 9 losses in all competitions since the Copa Libertadores, sitting eighth in the Serie A table on 57 points. While former Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldinho is suiting up for the Galo, Atlético Minero's young star Bernard suits up for Shakhtar Donetsk nowadays. Despite recent form, the Brazilian representative will still be a tough out with its skill and European experience up and down the roster.
[NOTE: Stay tuned for an in-depth look at Atlético Minero, scheduled to come Monday, December 16.]
FC Bayern München – UEFA Champion
The Bavarian giants sealed their ticket with a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League Final in Wembley Stadium. The Rekordmeister became the first German club to win the European treble, and its dominance has continued into the 2013/14 season. Die Roten have not picked up a victory in only four games in all competitions, including a loss in the DFL Super Cup to Borussia Dortmund, a glorified friendly, and a loss to Manchester City in the last game of the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League, an empty result. The club has gone 40 matches unbeaten in the Bundesliga, and currently hold the second highest UEFA coefficient among European clubs.
While unfamiliar with the FIFA Club World Cup, FC Bayern holds two titles of the tournament's predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup. In 1976, FC Bayern beat Brazilian side Cruzeiro 2-0 in Munich, and also beat Argentinian club Boca Juniors with a 1-0 victory in Tokyo. With three major trophies in the closet already, die Roten will look to end their historical 2013 on a high with a World Cup Victory.
Game 1: Auckland City FC vs. Raja Casablanca (Dec. 11, 19:30 GMT) – Quarterfinal Playoff
Game 2: Guangzhou Evergrande FC vs. Al Ahly FC (Dec. 14, 16:00 GMT) – Quarterfinal 1
Game 3: Game 1 Winner vs. CF Monterrey (Dec. 14, 19:30 GMT) – Quarterfinal 2
Game 4: Game 2 Winner vs. FC Bayern München (Dec. 17, 16:30 GMT) *Semi-Final 1
Game 5: Game 2 Loser vs. Game 3 Loser (Dec. 18, 16:30 GMT) – 5th Place Match
Game 6: Game 3 Winner vs. Club Atlético Minero (Dec. 18, 19:30 GMT) – Semi-Final 2
Game 7: Game 4 Loser vs. Game 6 Loser (Dec. 21, 16:30 GMT) – 3rd Place Match
Game 8: Game 4 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner (Dec. 21, 19:30 GMT) – Final
- FC Bayern München Extend Jérôme Boateng until 2018
- Mark van Bommel may return to Bayern Munich as a youth coach
- Manchester City give Bayern Munich their first loss of the season | Recap
- UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich throw away two goal lead to Manchester City | Instant Analysis
- UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City | Gamethread