Auckland test for Japanese new boys

The opening match of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016 pitches competition debutants and newly-crowned J.League winners Kashima Antlers against Auckland City, who owe their place in the competition to their sixth straight OFC Champions League triumph. The prize for the winner is a second round meeting with African champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

The match
Kashima Antlers-Auckland City, International Stadium Yokohama, Thursday 8 December, 19:30 (local time)

Kashima Antlers will go into the match with spirits high after defying the odds to win their eighth J.League title. Their aim as competition hosts will be to maintain the perfect record of Japanese clubs in opening matches at the FIFA Club World Cup, which reads five wins in as many games. Kashima will be hoping that Mu Kanazaki can replicate the form that saw him named player of the season in Japan, while Shoma Doi and Yuma Suzuki are also key figures in the attacking set-up of a side that never knows when it is beaten.

Facing them will be a team that holds the tournament appearance record. Returning to the Club World Cup with a squad largely unchanged from last year’s, Auckland City have the task of recording their first win against Japanese opposition in the competition, having lost three out of three to date. Their Spanish coach Ramon Tribulietx will be able to call on the services of veteran player/assistant coach Ivan Vicelich, while experience and teamwork are the main assets of a side that is hoping to repeat their magnificent run to third place at Morocco 2014.

The stat
100 – This first round match is the 100th in the history of the FIFA Club World Cup. The New Zealand club has featured in 13 matches in the competition to date, while the Japanese champions will be playing their first.

The words
“When I was starting out, I used to say that playing in the FIFA Club World Cup was my dream. I feel very happy to have fulfilled that dream now.” Kashima Antlers midfielder Shoma Doi

“We’ve got people who’ve played at the highest level. With the experience of the veterans and the quality of the younger players, I think this FIFA Club World Cup first round match will be more interesting than last year’s.” Auckland City captain Angel Berlanga

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