The path to winning the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup has been set following the official draw, which took place at the home of FIFA in Zurich on Tuesday.
Taking place this year from December 12-22, the Club World Cup will bring together the six continental club champions and the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League winners Al Ain to compete for one of club football’s top international prizes.
Following the draw, overseen by head of FIFA tournaments Jaime Yarza with the assistance of Argentina legend Esteban Cambiasso, the route to becoming this year’s FIFA Club World Cup champions was confirmed for the seven teams taking part.
The Boss will play for the chance to enter the competition proper when they face New Zealand’s Team Wellington FC – both of whom will make their FIFA Club World Cup debuts – in the tournament’s opening qualifying match at their own Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on December 12, with the second-round matches taking place on December 15.
European juggernauts Real Madrid – who lifted the trophy in Abu Dhabi last year – will enter the competition at the semi-final stage and play the winners of the match between the champions of Asia (set to be confirmed in November) and Mexico’s CD Guadalajara at Zayed Sports City Stadium on December 19.
The CONMEBOL representatives (winners of the 2018 Copa Libertadores in November) will play the winners of the match between the African club champions and the victors of the Al Ain/Team Wellington clash.
The Club World Cup final will take place at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on December 22.
The full match schedule will be completed in November after the final three continental champions from the AFC, CAF and CONMEBOL have been confirmed.
Cambiasso, a FIFA Club World Cup winner in the UAE with Inter Milan in 2010, said: “Playing in the FIFA Club World Cup is a fantastic experience: to see fans from different continents coming together to support their teams after a successful season creates a thrilling atmosphere.”
Fatma Samoura, FIFA secretary general added: “There is something extraordinarily gratifying about gathering the reigning champions from each confederation – and their tales of hard work to achieve continental success.
“FIFA is committed to fostering club football and its overwhelming global presence, and there is no better platform for that than the FIFA Club World Cup.”
HE major general Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi, chairman of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC), added: “We are excited to be hosting the world’s premier club tournament once again. The FIFA Club World Cup is the pinnacle of global professional club football, with the best teams from six continents and the region coming to Al Ain and Abu Dhabi to compete for the title of FIFA Club World Cup champions.
“We are privileged to be hosting some of the best football talent from across the globe. Fans will no doubt be excited to see their heroes from Real Madrid, Guadalajara, Al Ain and Team Wellington. Now we wait, with much anticipation, to find out which other clubs will be joining us in December.”
Tickets for the tournament are now available. For further information about how to apply for tickets and the tournament itself, visit https://www.fifa.com/clubworldcup/organisation/ticketing/.
The UAE exited the 2018 Asian Games but did so with their heads held high following a battling 1-0 defeat to heavyweights Japan in the semi-finals.
After an underwhelming passage to the last four via two penalty shootout wins against North Korea and minnows Indonesia – their only win at the Games came courtesy of a 4-1 hammering of lowly Timor-Leste in the group stage – Maciej Skorza’s side went toe to toe with the Samurai Blue.
Ayase Ueda struck a venomous goal 12 minutes from time to pierce the UAE’s hopes – rocketing a shot off the underside of Mohammed Al Shamsi’s crossbar after a fine tackle and pass from Kota Watanabe to set him up.
Ueda still had plenty to do but opened up his body beautifully and thundered his effort past the Al Wahda stopper.
Japan, expected to turn the Junior Whites over, instead toiled at the Pakansari Stadium on Wednesday.
Despite enjoying the dominant share of possession, Japan were constantly frustrated by their opponents, who also looked dangerous on the counter.
But Watanabe’s incisive pass and Ueda’s unstoppable finish was enough to send them into Saturday’s final, where they’ll play reigning champions South Korea, while the UAE will meet Vietnam in the battle for the bronze medal.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min played a captain’s role as Korea beat plucky Vietnam 3-1 to reach the final.
The World Cup star, who is missing the start of the Premier League season to represent his country in Indonesia, is now just 90 minutes away from a gold medal that would spare him a career-threatening spell of military service.
“I’m ready, I don’t think I need to say anything more,” said Son, refusing to be drawn on the subject. “We’re close to winning gold, to making history, and we will fight for it.”
A double from Lee Seung-woo and another goal from free-scoring striker Hwang Ui-jo sent the Taegeuk Warriors through to the final, where they will chase a record fifth title.
The UAE’s quest for a maiden Asian Games title remains on course, but they face a mighty test with Japan blocking their path to the 2018 final in Indonesia.
For the second game in a row, the Junior Whites had to overcome a nerve-shredding penalty shootout to beat North Korea 5-3 in Cibinong after it had finished 1-1 after extra-time.
Kim Yu-song opened the scoring with a fine header for the Koreans in the 63rd minute but Ali Eid rose to power in Zayed Al Ameri’s fine cross four minutes later to equalise.
In the shootout, Ahmed Al Attas, Al Ameri, Khaled Ibrahim and Hussain Abdulla all converted before Al Wahda goalkeeper Mohammed Al Shamsi saved from So Jong-hyok. Rashed Omar then netted to set up a mouthwatering showdown with the Samurai Blue on Wednesday (16:30 kick-off UAE time).
Japan reached the semis after a Yuto Iwasaki brace helped them beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the last eight on Monday.
The Samurai Blue opened the scoring at the Pakansari Stadium after 31 minutes when Daizen Maeda teed up Iwasaki, who curled a sublime effort over Mohammed Al Yami.
Six minutes before the break, the Green Falcons responded with Abdullah Al Yousif’s low shot parried by Ryosuke Kojima but straight into the path of his own defender Yugo Tatsuta, who could only watch in despair as the ball ricocheted off his heel and into his goal.
Japan continued to look the more dangerous and in the 73rd minute Maeda and Iwasaki combined once more to great effect.
Maeda broke free down the left before cutting a pass back to Iwasaki, who made no mistake in guiding a shot home to win it for the Japanese.
In the other semi-final, if Son Heung-min’s South Korea are to reach the final and the Tottenham Hotspur forward is to earn him and his colleagues exemption from military service, they will have to get past the “Korean Hiddink”.
Korean coach Park Hang-seo, a member of Guus Hiddink’s coaching staff at the 2002 World Cup when South Korea reached the semi-finals, is coaching Vietnam.
“Back then (in 2002) I was an assistant coach, but now I’m a head coach,” Park said after Vietnam’s 1-0 extra-time quarter-final victory over Syria set up a semi against his homeland. “We stopped in the semi-finals in 2002. But now we’ll not stop in the semi-finals.”
Spurs’ Son helped the Taegeuk Warriors reach the last four as the defending champions beat Uzbekistan 4-3 in a thrilling extra-time cliffhanger on Monday.
The World Cup star, who is in Indonesia chasing a gold medal that would spare him a career-threatening spell of military service, produced a pair of smart assists for hat-trick hero Hwang Ui-jo before a late Hwang Hee-chan penalty sent the Koreans through.
While Spurs were humbling Manchester United 3-0 in the Premier League some 7,000 miles away at Old Trafford, Son was the driving force as the Koreans advanced.
The Korea captain revealed that he was supposed to take the penalty kick but that substitute Hwang had demanded to take it – and Son couldn’t bear to watch, turning away as Hwang stepped up.
“Hee-chan said he wanted it and was confident,” he told reporters. “I told him to take the kick. I didn’t see where he put the penalty but I’m proud of him.”