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FIFA Club World Cup: Kashima Antlers vs. Auckland City Preview

Wednesday 7th December 2016
It's that time of the year again: the fascinating World Club Cup. The best teams from around the world compete in a knockout competition to see who can call themselves the best club side in the world. The preliminary round sees the host nation's Champions take on the OFC Champions League winners.

This preliminary round works as a playoff to determine the fourth team in the quarter-finals. Awaiting the winning side is Mamelodi Sundowns, the winners of the African Champions League. As is such the format of the FIFA Club World Cup. The teams participating are the winners of their confederation's Champions League competition. Teams enter at different phases of the tournament, the higher the teams/confederation ranking, the later their involvement. This means that OFC Champions League winners need to win four games to win the tournament, as opposed to Real Madrid who enter at the semi-final stage and just need to win two games. Whilst this might be seen as stacking the deck against the smaller teams, the opportunity and grandeur of playing in the same competition as Real Madrid is surely prized enough in itself?

Kashima Antlers were the last team to qualify for the competition. The Japanese outfit did so by winning their domestic league, J1 – FIFA awarded this to Japan as an added incentive for the nation hosting the competition. This will be Kashima Antler's first participation in the competition, despite being Japan's most successful club. The team sparked national debate considering they won the J.League title on away goals; this was prior to them winning six of their last seventeen games. Altogether Japanese football fans (other than Antlers followers) were left a little deflated considering the system produced a somewhat unjust result and winner.
Highlights from the last game where Kashima Antlers clinched the J.League title.

Auckland City enters the Club World Cup by virtue of their win in the OFC Champions League back in April 2016. The team are essentially semi-professional. The club from New Zealand were comfortable winners of the competition; as they went undefeated throughout both the group and knockout stages. Although the eight-time winners of the OFC Champions League don't have much competition from the other Oceania countries, considering the very poor quality of football from the likes of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tahiti. Whilst this will be their eighth time in the competition, they've only twice made it past the first game. Both occasions when they did, in 2009 and 2014, they produced heroics defeating teams' way beyond their calibre. The latter edition they went to the semi-finals after dispensing with both Moroccan and continental African champions. There is a slightly caveat on their previous successes, that they've never won a game in Japan nor against Japanese opposition. The team are currently in second place in the NZ Football Championship.
Highlights from Auckland's success against the African football champions.

Kashima Antlers, being the professional football team and the J.League champions – should be the massive favourites for this game and to progress to the next round. Auckland's poor Japanese record will surely haunt them as they meet another team in the Land of the Rising Sun. João Moreira could be one to watch for the Oceania team, having scored three goals in his last six games. Buoyed by his two away goals that won his team the whole J.League title, Mu Kanazaki will certainly want to boost his season goal tally via the Club World Cup.

Kashima Antlers v Auckland City - Thursday, kickoff 10:30am (UK time)


 
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 


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