Will Benzema face Haaland in the FIFA Club World Cup?

Will Benzema face Haaland in the FIFA Club World Cup?
Saudi Arabia side Al-Ittihad will face New Zealand champions Auckland City in the first round of the tournament.
3 min read
07 September, 2023
Karim Benzema will be one of the big names competing in the FIFA Club World Cup [Getty]

The draw for the FIFA Club World Cup was held this week, with Saudi Arabia's Al-Ittihad and Egypt's Al-Ahly some of the big names in the tournament.

It will see seven teams from across the world compete in the ten-day tournament, which will be held in Saudi Arabia, a country whose footballing ambitions have recently come under the spotlight.

Visit Saudi, the kingdom's tourism board, will sponsor the event this year and likely attract thousands of football fans from Mexico to New Zealand.

What is the FIFA Club World Cup?

The FIFA-organised tournament features winners of the world's continental trophies: the AFC Champions League (Asia), CAF Champions League (Africa), CONCACAF Champions Cup (North, Central America and Caribbean), CONMEBOL Libertadores (South America), OFC Champions League (Oceania), and UEFA Champions League (Europe).

A club from the host city, in this case, Jeddah's Al-Ittihad, is also given a chance to lift the trophy.

The FIFA Club World Cup is controversial with many in Europe ridiculing it as a FIFA PR exercise while others are excited by the opportunity to see their team take on Champions League winners or see some of the world's biggest football stars play in their home city.

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Who is playing?

Egypt champions Al-Ahly and Saudi Pro League winners Al-Ittihad will compete in this year's tournament.

From the Americas, there is Mexico side Leon, and coming in from Oceania and Asia are New Zealand's Auckland City and Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds.

Champions League winners Manchester City will represent Europe.

Where is it being held?

Saudi Arabia will host the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time with the tournament taking place in the coastal city of Jeddah.

All games will be played at either the 62,000-seater King Abdullah Sports City or Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium, capacity 27,000.

Jeddah's two biggest teams, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli, are among the Saudi teams to recently receive a huge cash injection from the Public Investment Fund.

The latter team brought in Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez, and Edouard Mendy for this season, who will have to watch from the stands when city rivals Al-Ittihad play.

Previously, the UAE hosted the tournament five times, while in 2019 and 2020 it was held in Qatar.

When are the games being played?

Al-Ittihad will host Auckland City in the first round of the FIFA Club World Cup on 12 December.

Round two will see four teams play, with Al-Ahly facing the winner of the first round, and Leon facing Urawa Red Diamonds on 15 December.

Manchester City enter the tournament in the semi-finals where they will play the winner of match three. The final will be held at the King Abdullah Sports City on 22 December.

Which players should I look out for?

This year's FIFA Club World Cup comes after Saudi football made the headlines with a huge spending spree attracting some of the world's biggest stars.

Al-Ittihad snapped up Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema, Brazilian stars Fabinho and Romarinho, and Jota from Celtic.

Morocco's Abderrazak Hamdallah is nicknamed 'The Executioner' due to his phenomenal scoring rate of 38 goals in 44 games for Al-Ittihad.

Al-Ahly will miss striker Mohamed Sherif who signed for Saudi Pro League side Al-Khaleej side this summer, but they can rely on captain and goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy at the other side of the pitch.

The 12th man, a favourite of Al-Ahly's fanatical fans, will be an invaluable asset for the Cairo side.

Manchester City has no shortage of big names in their team with Norwegian forward Erling Haaland one of the many stand-out stars.

Have any Arab sides won the tournament?

No Arab side has ever lifted the trophy although Morocco's Raja Casablanca, the UAE's Al-Ahli, and Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal have all reached the finals.

This year, Al-Ittihad will likely be the Arab world's best hope to win the tournament.