Later this year, Saudi Arabia will get to host the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup in December. The tournament will see one of the Saudi teams compete for the world title against the winners of the other six soccer conferences – UEFA (Europe), CONMEBOL (South America), CONCACAF (North & Central America), CAF (Africa), OFC (Oceania), and AFC (Asia).
This isn’t the first time that an Arab nation is hosting this tournament. In fact, 50% of the previous editions of the FIFA Club World Cup took place either in North Africa or the Gulf Region. Previously, the tournament was hosted three times by the UAE and Morocco each, and twice by Qatar.
Seven Champions Compete for the Trophy in December
The 2023 FIFA Club World Cup will take place in Saudi Arabia from 12 to 22 December 2023. At this point, there’s only one team that’s booked its spot in the tournament – Urawa Red Diamonds of the Japanese J-League.
They earned themselves a place in the tournament after qualifying for the final of the 2022 AFC Champions League. Whatever happens in that game, the Japanese heavyweight will get to play in Saudi Arabia in the winter.
If the Red Diamonds fail to defeat Al Hilal in the Asian conference final, the Saudi team will secure a spot at the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup. Conversely, if they don’t win, then the Saudi Professional League’s winner will take their place. According to the leading Arabic football betting site, Al-Nassr is the favorite to win the league, which means we could see Cristiano Ronaldo taking the field against one of his former clubs.
However, the 2022-23 Champions League will also provide a participant, which is likely to be Real Madrid. Finally, the Copa Libertadores, the CAF Champions League, the CONCACAF Champions League, and the OFC Champions League will each provide a team for the competition.
Do Saudis Stand a Chance at the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup?
The FIFA Club World Cup was formed in 2000 and has had 20 editions to date, with either a European or South American team winning each one. In fact, 16 of the last 17 tournaments have been won by European teams.
Last year, Saudi powerhouse Al-Hilal came close to being the first Arab team to win the competition but fell short in the final against Real Madrid 5-3 at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, Morocco. Al-Hilal has the chance to qualify again this May if they win the AFC Champions League, but many Saudi soccer fans would rather they didn’t as Al-Nassr would then qualify. This team boasts legendary Cristiano Ronaldo as their biggest star, as well as other big names such as David Ospina, Luiz Gustavo, and more.
Saudi Arabia Looks Like a Perfect Place for a Major Soccer Tournament
The 2023 FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia will serve as a dress rehearsal for the nation’s preparations for hosting the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. In order to accommodate the influx of visitors, four additional stadiums are planned to be built within the next four years.
The largest stadium already in the country is the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. This venue is the home ground for Al Hilal, Al-Shabab, and the Saudi national team, and has a capacity of nearly 70,000. It has already hosted several significant soccer matches, such as the 2023 Supercoppa Italiana and the 2023 Supercopa de Espana. The second biggest stadium, known as The Jewel, is King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Here, Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad of the Saudi top-flight play their matches. Notable non-soccer events to have taken place at this venue include the 2018 WWE Greatest Royal Rumble and the 2022 Rage on the Red Sea boxing match between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.
The 2023 FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia promises to be an exciting event. With the great infrastructure that the country has to offer, the tournament is sure to be a great success. It will be a fantastic opportunity for the Saudi teams to compete with the world’s soccer giants and potentially make history by becoming the first Arab team to win the tournament.
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