By TRAVIS CLARK
The tournament might technically have already started, but come tomorrow, some of the bigger clubs enter play in the FIFA Club World Cup.
Seven teams representing each continental confederation will be in action in the United Arab Emirates. Two smaller teams began the tournament Wednesday, with UAE side Al-Wahda defeating Hekari United, the Oceania representative from Papua New Guinea, 3-0.
The competition continues on Friday, as CONCACAF representative Pachuca takes on African club Tout Puissant Mazembe in the quarterfinals. Inter Milan and Internacional await the winners of the two quarterfinal matches in the semifinal.
In its seventh year, the Club World Cup has never been won by a team outside of Europe or South America. This automatically makes Inter Milan and Internacional favorites, as those two sides only have to play one game to reach the final.
Here's a look at the teams involved and the schedule:
Two U.S. men's national team representatives will be trying to earn playing time, as the CONCACAF representative boasts Jose Francisco Torres and Herculez Gomez. This marks the third time that Pachuca has appeared at the CWC, and they'll be out to improve on previous sixth and fourth place finishes, in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
Al-Wahda is only in the competition as the host, and progressed through the qualifying round against Oceania representative Hekari United. The advantage of playing at home could be enough to secure an upset against Seongnam Chunma.
SEONGNAM IlWHA CHUNMA
The most successful club in Korean soccer history, Seongnam has won the K-League 7 times. Winners of the Asian Champions League in 1995-96 (prior to the Club World Cup's creation) and 2010, they'll be looking to hold off home side Al-Wahda, which would set up a semifinal with Inter Milan.
This marks the second straight time that the club based in Congo DR progressed to the Club World Cup by means of winning the African Champions League. They enter the CWC without star striker Mabi Mputu, and face a difficult test in Pachuca.
The champions of both Italy and Europe last club season, Inter Milan have struggled under new manager Rafa Benitez, and many wonder if he'll survive no matter what the result is in the UAE. Easily the most talented team in the competition with the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o leading the attack.
The 2010 Copa Libertadores Champions are the first returning winners, having previously triumphed at the Club World Cup in 2006. They've struggled a bit domesitcally of late, and will look to turn their fortunes around in Adu Dhabi. Giuliano and Andres D’Alessandro are two of the talented players Internacional brings to the competition.
Pachuca vs. TP Mazembe, December 10, 11am FSC
Al-Wahda vs. Seongnam Chunma, December 11, 11am, FIFA.com
Pachuca/TP Mazembe vs. Internacional, December 14, 11am, FSC
Al-Wahda/Seongnam Chunma vs. Inter Milan, December 15, 12pm, FSC
December 18, 12pm, FIFA.com