December 10 – Organisers of the Club World Cup, which kicks off on Wednesday in Qatar, have been left red-faced after being forced to switch the venue for the tournament’s showpiece final because the so-called Education City Stadium is not ready.
The tournament, which gets under way with Qatar’s Al Sadd taking on OFC champions New Caledonia’s Hienghène Sport, is being viewed as a curtain-raiser for the World Cup in 2022 and is the biggest test of the Gulf state’s capabilities since the U-20 World Cup in 1995 when Qatar stepped in to replace Nigeria.
At the last minute organisers have been forced by FIFA to shift the final to the Khalifa International Stadium, the venue for the world athletics championships in October. The Khalifa International Stadium will now host both the final and the two semi-finals.
The move comes after Doha’s al-Janoub Stadium struggled to cope with the influx of fans during the Arabian Gulf Cup semi-finals between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Organisers fear that similar problems could have hit operations at Education City Stadium, which is due to host a number of World Cup games in 2022 but has yet to stage a single test event.
European champions Liverpool and Copa Libertadores kings Flamengo join the fray next week at the semi-final stage, with the former hot favourites to the lift the trophy, not least given that Brazil’s Corinthians were the last non-European side to win it back in 2012 when they defeated Chelsea 1-0 in Tokyo.
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