Man City to face Urawa at Club World Cup after Asian champion beat Mexico’s Leon

AP , Friday 15 Dec 2023

Manchester City will play Urawa Red Diamonds in the Club World Cup semifinals after the Asian champion beat Leon of Mexico 1-0 on Friday.

Urawa
Urawa Reds' Alex Schalk, center, celebrates scoring his side's opening goal during the football Club World Cup second-round football match between Club Leon and Urawa Reds at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Dec. 15, 2023. Photo: AP

 

Saudi Arabian champion Al-Ittihad, captained by Karim Benzema, played Al Ahly, the Egyptian champion of Africa, later Friday in the other second-round game. The winner will face Fluminense of Brazil in the semifinals next week.

Urawa’s win was sealed with a 78th-minute goal by Dutch forward Alex Schalk, who squeezed a low, angled shot past advancing León goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota.

Schalk’s journey from his native Netherlands to Japan took him via the north of Scotland, where he spent three seasons at Ross County, and to Switzerland with Servette, where the first of his four years was in the second division.

Urawa earned its place at the seven-team Club World Cup by winning the Asian Champions League in February, beating Saudi club Al-Hilal in the final. Al-Hilal has since spent lavishly on players from European clubs including Neymar, Aleksandar Mitrović and Ruben Neves.

The last Club World Cup in the traditional short format for continental champions plus the host nation’s domestic league winner is the first to be played in Saudi Arabia, in two stadiums in Jeddah.

Al-Ittihad will host Al Ahly in its own King Abdullah Sports City stadium where a crowd of more than 50,000 saw the team beat Oceania champion Auckland City 3-0 on Tuesday in the tournament opener.

The attendance on Friday was 2,525 at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium to see Urawa’s win.

Man City will play Urawa at King Abdullah Sports City on Tuesday, one day after the same stadium stages Fluminense playing Al-Ittihad or Al Ahly.

The next Club World Cup in June-July 2025 will be a relaunch with 32 teams — the 12 from Europe will include recent Champions League winners Man City, Real Madrid and Chelsea — and played in the United States. The event will then be played every four years, in the year before men’s World Cups.

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