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Club World Cup: Who Will Win In Saudi?

Club World Cup: Who Will Win In Saudi?
Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews
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The Club World Cup kicks off in Saudi Arabia on December 12th.

In the world of football, the best of the very best will battle it out for the chance to be crowned the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup Champions.


The tournament starts on December 12 at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium and finishes at the same venue on December 22 2023. Saudi Arabia's second-largest city, Jeddah, will play host to teams from the Middle East, North America, South America, Europe, Oceania, Africa, and Asia.

The seven teams taking part in this year's competition are:

* Al Ahly FC (Egypt)

* Auckland City FC (New Zealand)

* Al-Ittihad FC (Saudi Arabia)

* Club León (Mexico)

* Fluminense FC (Brazil)

* Manchester City (England)

* Urawa Reds (Japan)

Egyptian side Al Ahly FC cemented their spot after overcoming Morocco's Wydad 3-2 in the CAF Champions League final. Auckland City from New Zealand qualified again, securing their record eleventh OFC Champions League title with a 4-2 win over Fijiian team Suva.

Mexico's Club León earned their place following their first-ever CONCACAF tournament win, defeating LAFC earlier this year. Fluminense FC of Brazil qualified by emerging victorious in a heated Copa Libertadores final against their Argentine rivals, Boca Juniors.

European Champions Manchester City secured their qualification by triumphing in the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League final against Inter Milan and clinching victory in the 2022/23 UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla. Urawa Reds from Japan secured their place by defeating Saudi's Al-Hilal in the AFC Champions League. Saudi Arabia's Al-Ittihad FC qualified as the current champions of the Saudi Pro League, given Saudi Arabia's status as the host nation.

Having won the Premier League, English FA Cup, and Champions League, Manchester City are considered a favourite for the Club World Cup title. It's The Cityzens debut into the tournament and supporter and journalist Josh Lawless says winning the competition would finish off a brilliant year for the club.

"When you're an outsider, you don't care for it as much. But when you're in it, often there's a shift in momentum when there's a trophy at stake. You might as well go and win it. Champions of Europe is one thing. Champion of the world is a special thing that I'm sure City fans would love to sing at matches." Josh explained.

Manchester City lifting the European Cup in June
Manchester City lifting the European Cup in JuneFrancisco Seco/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

For Saudi Arabia, the Club World Cup will be the country's first major football tournament on the international stage and an opportunity to lay the groundwork ahead of hosting the 2034 FIFA World Cup. The country has made significant moves within the sport over the past few years, signing several stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar. Middle East football expert Ben Jacobs thinks travelling fans will have a blast.

I think going to Saudi Arabia to watch football is a different experience for some fans. So Manchester City supporters, much like many for the Qatar World Cup, will be looking to experience a different culture, a very positive one.
Ben Jacobs
Middle East Football Expert

"We know, for example, that there's no alcohol, but many said during the Qatar World Cup that that was something that was very beneficial. The other thing is that the games tend to take place later, even in winter. So the weather will not be a problem as far as December is concerned. But after the football games, many fans went to the Souq Waqif, were happy, and had a late-night experience there. Instead of going to a bar before or after a game, the fans went to the Souq to enjoy a very cosmopolitan experience." Jacobs concluded.

Fans in Saudi were delighted with Benzema's arrival this summer
Fans in Saudi were delighted with Benzema's arrival this summerSTR/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

The 2022 Club World Cup final, which took place in February, saw Real Madrid defeat Al-Hilal 5-3 in Morocco. The current Spanish champions miss out on the competition this year, having been knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester City.

The upcoming 20th edition of the championship is the last chance for a team to win the tournament in its current guise. The new look format is expanding from seven to 32 teams in 2025. For the host nation, the 2023 Club World Cup is an opportunity to show the world that Saudi Arabia is ready to compete on the global stage, and their representatives, Al-Ittihad, have the edge as they are playing on home soil.

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