Soccer: Auckland City to face Japanese champs

Auckland City will appear in their fourth Club World Cup. Photo / Sara Ivey
Auckland City will appear in their fourth Club World Cup. Photo / Sara Ivey

Auckland City have drawn the winners of Japan's national football championship in their playoff match at December's Club World Cup in Japan.

The Oceania champions open the tournament in Yokohama on December 6 where they will play for the right to face the champions of Africa in the quarterfinals.

Auckland City qualified for the Club World Cup after defeating Tahitian champions Tefana 3-1 aggregate in the O-League final in May.

The win secured a fourth appearance at Fifa's club showpiece, and the US$500,000 cheque which comes with it. Auckland City's best result at the tournament was in 2009 when they recorded two victories to finish fifth.

Any thought of a 2009 rematch with the African champions league winners is on hold for coach Ramon Tribulietx as he turns his attention toward the J-League.

"We have played the likes of the African winners in the past and know they are physically and technically very good. They would be very difficult play against," he said, "but our real focus will be the J-League winners which will be a real challenge for us. I don't really want to look too far into the draw - we will take it game by game as we always do."

While the draw beyond the first match looks favourable, Tribulietx is quick to point out the J-League champions won't be easy beats with last year's 2-0 defeat to Kashiwa Reysol a useful yardstick.

"Our aim will be to compete as well as we can. We are the underdogs in the competition although with our participation last year still fresh in our minds we hope to be able to take our game to another level," Tribulietx said.

The J-League - Japan's flagship professional league - has eight rounds left to play, with three clubs San Frecce Hiroshima, Vegalta Sendai, and Urawa Reds all firmly in contention.

Last year's winners Kashiwa Reysol languish in seventh place, 11 points adrift.

Meanwhile European champions Chelsea will play either the winners of the Asian Champions League or Mexican side Monterrey in the semi-finals.

The identity of the team representing Asia in the annual intercontinental competition will not be known until the final of the Asian Champions League on November 10.

The victors of that encounter will tackle South American champions Corinthians in the other semi-final.

Chelsea qualified for the tournament by beating Bayern Munich on penalties in May's UEFA Champions League final and Roberto di Matteo's side will be seeking to succeed Barcelona as World Club champions.

2012 Club World Cup draw:

December 6, Yokohama
Play-off match -
Japanese champions v Auckland City

December 9, Toyota
Quarter-finals -
Play-off winners v African champions
Asian champions v Monterrey (MEX)

December 12, Toyota
Semi-final -
Winners of quarter-final 1 v Corinthians (BRA)
Fifth-place play-off -
Losers of quarter-final 2 v Losers of quarter-final 1

December 13, Yokohama
Semi-final -
Winners of quarter-final 2 v Chelsea (ENG)

December 16, Yokohama
Final -
Winners of semi-final 1 v Winners of semi-final 2
Third-place play-off -
Losers of semi-final 1 v Losers of semi-final 2

- AFP/

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