With the attention of world football set firmly on Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, ahead of Tuesday’s 2023 FIFA Club World Cup kick-off, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has sent his best wishes to Asia’s representatives and underlined his confidence in the Local Organising Committee (LOC), the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) and FIFA to deliver a memorable club spectacle.
Scheduled to take place from December 12 to 22 at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium and the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, Asia will be represented by reigning AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan and host club Al Ittihad FC.
Asian sides have enjoyed a proud record at the world club showpiece, with Kashima Antlers (2016), Al Ain (2018) and Al Hilal SFC (2022) advancing to the Final in three of the last seven deciders. The Antlers went closest to lifting the trophy, leading against Real Madrid after the hour mark only to be unravelled by a Cristiano Ronaldo treble, two of which came in extra-time.
Shaikh Salman said: “On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to wish Urawa Red Diamonds and Al Ittihad as well as our match officials the very best of success. Our Asian teams have proven time and again their ability to compete with the world’s elite and I am confident they will continue to exemplify the AFC’s Vision of thriving on the global stage.”
Poised for its 20th edition, the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup has had its roots firmly planted in Asia. The Continent has presented an unrivalled platform for the world’s best clubs on 15 occasions with first-time host Saudi Arabia becoming the sixth nation to set the ultimate backdrop after Brazil, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Qatar.
The AFC President added, “No other FIFA tournament has been held in Asia more times than the FIFA Club World Cup in another clear sign that our great Continent continues to be the focal point and epicentre of world football. At the same time, the AFC applauds Saudi Arabia’s bold ambitions to develop the beautiful game across all levels and solidify its position as a world-class sporting destination.”
“There is no denying the palpable passion for football that exists in Saudi Arabia and I am confident that the SAFF, the LOC and FIFA will deliver an exceptional tournament that will leave a lasting impression on football fans all across the world.”
Reigning Saudi Pro League champions Al Ittihad will kick off the showdown in Jeddah when they face OFC Champions League title-holders Auckland City FC on Tuesday, December 12 at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium at 9pm. Victory for the host, who are returning to the world club stage after nearly two decades, will see them seal a date with CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly from Egypt three days later at the same time and venue.
Meanwhile, Asian champions Urawa, who will be aiming to better their third-place finish achieved in their 2007 debut, will begin their quest for supremacy against CONCACAF Champions League winners Club León from Mexico on Friday, December 15 at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium at 5:30pm, with the victors facing European and treble winners Manchester City in the Semifinals four days later.