We Are The Champions

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-4 5:03:02

A look at the teams who can lift the FIFA Club World Cup

Guangzhou Evergrande striker Elkeson celebrates scoring against Al Ahli in the second leg of the AFC Champions League finals on November 21 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: CFP

The FIFA Club World Cup is the closest thing we have to decide which club actually deserves to call themselves genuine world champions, despite what their fans think. Fifteen years after the FIFA Club World Championship debuted in Brazil, we return once again to its perennial home of Japan for the ­latest opportunity to claim global bragging rights.

While the hosts decide this weekend who will be the J-League champions out of Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Gamba Osaka - and with it the only non-continental champion at the FIFA Club World Cup - the rest of the teams will be readying themselves for the 10-day tournament that ends in glory on December 20.

Could this finally be the year where a team from outside Europe or South America wins the trophy? We will know in eight games.

FC Barcelona - Spain - UEFA Champions League winners

What can you say about the Blaugrana that has not been said before? Nothing, and it's worse now that the planet is lost for words at their attacking triumvirate and Andres Iniesta. Real Madrid, the current Club World Cup champions, were ­recently swatted aside at home. None of the other clubs should stand a chance as serial trophy-winners Barcelona look to become the first team to win the tournament three times. If they win here, they will have won five tournaments in a season for the second time. Another Barcelona under Guardiola record matched, another day in the life of Luis Enrique's Barcelona.

Previous best: Winners (2009, 2011)

Guangzhou Evergrande - China - AFC Champions League winners

The Chinese Super League winners claimed their second bite of the Club World Cup cherry late last month and their ambition knows no bounds. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is the man that they will be looking towards to restore some national pride - and to outdo the third-placed finishes achieved by Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds and Gamba Osaka, South Korea's Pohang Steelers and Qatar's Al Sadd. If that happens it will likely be because of Elkeson's goals and the gifted Brazilian will not be in South China too much longer.

Previous best: Fourth (2013)

TP Mazende - DR Congo - CAF Champions League winners

After a long sojourn from the continental stage, the Congolese club became champions of Africa in 2009 and 2010. Their first trip to the Club World Cup ended in sixth place and defeat to Auckland City but the following year they became the first non-European or South American side to reach the final, losing to Inter Milan. The goals of Tanzanian international Mbwana Samatta fired them to captain Joel Kimkawi lifting the CAF trophy. They'll hope Samatta is fit and left back Jean Kasusula returns from a freak broken arm in time for Japan.

Previous best: Finalists (2010)

Auckland City - New Zealand - OFC Champions League winners

In Morocco last year, the Kiwis became the first amateur side to pick up third place at the Club World Cup and they will want to add to this year. This is their fifth visit as continental champions in a row and, just three games in to the new ASB Premiership season, they are top of the domestic league again. Argentinian star striker Emiliano Tade's return from playing in his homeland will add to the whole host of All White internationals hoping to ­improve on last time out.

Previous best: Third (2014)

River Plate - Argentina - Copa Libertadores winners

The Argentinians currently hold all four of CONMEBOL's major competitions - the Copa Sudamericana, Recopa Sudamericana, Sugura Bank Championship and the Copa Libertadores (the tournament win that got them here) - the first time any one club has done this. The recent thirst for silverware from the Argentinians bodes them well in Japan but it is all the more surprising that such a remarkable year comes just four seasons after they were relegated for the first time in a century. Currently in the 2015 Copa Sudamericana semifinal, it seems they are not done filling their trophy cabinet just yet - not bad considering they only made the Copa Libertadores quarters after crowd trouble with rivals Boca Juniors saw them through.

Previous best: First appearance

Club America - CONCACAF Champions League winners

The Mexico City side ended a nine-year wait for their sixth continental title and will want to go at least one better than their great rivals Cruz Azul, who finished fourth in Morocco last year, and who they tied on six regional titles with their win last year. Dario Benedetto and Oribe Peralta shared the golden boot, with the former also named as the best player, but both could be gone by the time the Club World Cup rolls around, with Benedetto linked to Boca Juniors and Peralta in negotiations with Atlas for their upcoming 2016 Clausura seasons. If it happens that would be too big a blow to recover from. 

Previous best: Fourth (2006)

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