The 10th edition of the Fifa Club World Cup kicks off on Wednesday in Morocco, which will become the first African nation to host the international association football competition.
The champion clubs from each of the six continental confederations and winner of the host nation’s domestic league Raja Casablanca will lock horns within two weeks, from December 11 and 21, in the run to produce the successor of Brazil’s Corinthians, who won the tournament last year.
The draw was held on December 9, with host team Raja discovering their opponents for the opener, Auckland City, the Oceanian representative, who are putting up their fifth appearance as opposed to the Green Eagles’ second.
Raja do have experience, being the first team to represent the Confederation of African Football (Caf) in the inaugural edition hosted by Brazil in 2000. There will be massive support from home fans, whom organisers expect would relish the opportunity to get involved in an international tournament after the national team failed to qualify to next year’s Fifa World Cup.
Africa’s other representative Al Ahly from Egypt are seen as a more robust challenger in the lot than Raja, being the winner of the 2013 Caf Champions League and five-time participants since 2005, winning bronze in 2006 and finishing fourth in 2012.
The Red Devils will open their campaign on December 14 in Agadir against Asian Football Confederation champions Guangzhou Evergrande from China, who are newcomers to the tournament, an opposition many Egyptians expect their team to overwhelm.
If they win their first game, Raja will progress to face Concacaf representatives Monterrey from Mexico in the quarterfinals, while Ahly could entertain top favourites Bayern Munich from Uefa.
There is much determination on the side of the two African clubs but they face a huge contest from front-runners Bayern and Atletico Mineiro from Brazil, as well as Monterrey.
However, a repeat of TP Mazembe’s finalist feat in 2010 would likely attract appreciation from not only the north African region but across the continent.