Thursday sees the start of the 2008 Club World Championship in Japan, and in anticipation of the event we though it only appropriate to shed a bit of light on the maligned tournament prior to kick-off.
Seven teams from around the globe will gather together to apparently decide which is the best club side in the world, all having secured qualification by succeeding in their own federations major club competitions in the last 12 months. Bizarrely however, due to the disparity in the strength of football worldwide, the competition seems incredibly lopsided even before a ball is kicked, with the quality of the participating teams ranging from the lofty heights of Manchester United through to the semi-professional standards of New Zealand’s Waitakere United.
With such differences in quality between the teams involved, the Club World Championship aims to insert some credibility by creating a uneven playing field, in which different teams enter the competition at different rounds.
The competition’s opener sees Waitakere, winners of the Oceania Champions League, take on their local Aussie rivals and AFC Champions League runners-up Adelaide United. This match, while important for local bragging-rights, reflects the lowly regard both teams are held in with only one team able to progress to the quarter-finals.
Whoever emerges victorious earns the opportunity to face AFC Champions League winners Gamba Osaka in the next round. Should this be Adelaide, as is widely expected, Gamba will be favourites to make the semis after having so easily seen off the A-League side’s challenge 6-1 on aggregate in their Champions League final just last month.
The other match in the quarter-finals (strangely, there are only two matches making up the quarters) has already been pre-determined, with the African Champions League winners Al-Ahly facing CONCACAF Champions’ Cup winners Pachuca. With the Egyptian powerhouse arriving with all their stars on hand, this could well be the match that sparks this tournament into life.
Only in the semi-finals do Manchester United make their entrance. The European Champions League winners will face the winners of the Gamba Osaka match, while either Al-Ahly or Pachuca will take on the 2008 Copa Libertadores champions, LDU Quito.
Along with the final, there is also a third-place playoff between the losing semi-finalists as well as a fifth-place playoff played between the losing quarter-finalists.