Asian Champions Ulsan to kick off FIFA Club World Cup in 2nd round

by BERNAMA / Pic by AFP

SEOUL –  The Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai FC will begin their journey toward a FIFA club title on Feb. 4 next year in Qatar, according to a FIFA timetable released Thursday.

The annual tournament features winners of regional club tournaments in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Central America, and South America, and the host country’s national champions take on the Oceania champions in an opening playoff match, Yonhap news agency reported.

Ulsan, representing South Korea’s K League, won the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League earlier this month in Qatar.

The 17th edition will be hosted by Qatar. The tournament was postponed from December this year to February next year, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted several regional club tournaments and champions wouldn’t have been decided in time for the Club World Cup.

The Qatar Stars League champions Al Duhail will face Auckland City, representing Oceania, in the first round on Feb. 1, the international football governing body said, unveiling its 2020 Club World Cup match schedule.

The winning club will move on to the second round set for Feb. 4, with Ulsan, the African champions Al Ahly and Tigres UANL of Mexico, the winners of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Champions League, awaiting.

Bayern Munich, the UEFA Champions League winners as the European champs, and the yet-to-be-determined South American champions have byes to the semifinals, which will be played on Feb. 7 and 8. The third-place match and the final will be Feb. 11.

The draw for the tournament beyond the first round is scheduled for Jan. 19.

No K League club has lifted the FIFA Club World Cup trophy, and no team from South Korea has even competed in the final. Pohang Steelers came the closest by finishing in third place in 2009.

Ulsan could be competing in familiar territory with some great recent history. The second-round matches will be played at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, just west of the Qatari capital. Education City Stadium will also host the third-place contest and the final.

Along with Education City and Khalifa International, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium will also host matches at the FIFA Club World Cup. Ahmad Bin Ali was inaugurated on Dec. 18, exactly two years before the opening kickoff of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. All three venues will host World Cup matches in two years’ time.