Japan to Host 2021 World Club Cup
Like many top sporting competitions, the World Club Cup took a brief hiatus in 2020, but next year’s competition has now been announced.
It will now take place in Japan but plans to expand the competition have been shelved for now. Before the recent pandemic, FIFA had planned to introduce a fresh, 24-team competition to be held in China in June and July 2021. That plan has now been put on hold, with major international tournaments such as Euro 2020 scheduled to take place over the summer.The next competition will instead take place in December 2021 in Japan and will feature the regular seven-team format, with one entry from CONMEBOL, UEFA, AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, OFC and AFC. It is suggested by Insider Sport that the European entrant should be Bayern Munich, who lifted the 2020 Champions League title, even though the 2021 winner will be known months before the World Club Cup. That has yet to be confirmed through official channels.Japan is no stranger to hosting the World Club Cup, having staged four tournaments in a row between 2005 and 2008, and eight in total. They also hosted the 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016 competitions, although in that time their entrants have only been marginally successful. Once Japan has contributed a runner-up, Kashima Antlers in 2016. Aside from that, Urawa Red Diamonds, Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Gamba Osaka have finished third, whilst the Antlers and Kashiwa Reysol have finished fourth. The last winners of the competition were Merseyside giants Liverpool, who in turn were only the second English winners after Manchester United lifted it in 2008.Football is popular in Japan, playing second fiddle only to baseball as the country’s sport of choice. After turning professional in 1987, the reformation of the J-league in 1991 saw a surge in popularity, with the likes of Gary Lineker and Zico heading over there to ply their trade. Attendances have risen steadily since then with an average of around 17,500 attending top-flight matches. The supporter culture is very different from other major countries, particularly those in Europe. The fan experience in England is very much about heading to the ground early to meet fellow supporters, placing an accumulator bet and watching other results come in on your phone during the game, adding to the tension even if your team is being soundly beaten. That is not possible in many Asian countries, with sports wagers prohibited, according to ExpatBets’ guide to Japan. Still, the game enjoys plenty of popularity there, despite that glaring difference to some of the bigger established European leagues, and they can host big tournaments with ease due to strong infrastructure and grounds of good standard across the country.In 2002, Japan co-hosted the World Cup along with South Korea, and ten venues from Sapporo in the north to Oita in the south saw matches contested. The final, in which the legendary Ronaldo bagged a brace for Brazil as they swept aside Germany, was attended by close to 70,000 people in Yokohama. The same city has hosted all the World Club Cup Finals, the last of which saw Kashima Antlers defeated 4-2 by Real Madrid.The last three tournaments have been held in the UAE and Qatar, with Morocco and Brazil the only other countries to have seen World Club Cup action since its inception in 2000. As yet, it has not been to Europe, despite 12 of the 16 winners coming from Europe, including every winner since 2013. The wait for such an event looks likely to be prolonged, as FIFA may return to the idea of China and 24 teams for the 2022 tournament, which could take place in the summer courtesy of the winter World Cup in Qatar.