The final squads have been announced for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011, providing the cast list for what promises to be a thrilling football production. Some of the game’s biggest names will be on show in Toyota City and Yokohama between 8 and 18 December, with the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar leading a star-studded collection of continental champions and local heroes.
Each of the seven participating teams boast players with international experience, although most would concede that is in the ranks of FC Barcelona that we find the most dazzling array of footballing icons. Messi, after all, is just one eight Barça players who made the 23-man shortlist for this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or award, with fellow nominees Eric Abidal, Dani Alves, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Xavi and David Villa all joining the 2010 winner on the journey to Japan. Pep Guardiola’s side won this tournament two years ago in UAE, of course, but they also have in their ranks a few FIFA Club World Cup newcomers, most notably Fabregas, David Villa, Javier Mascherano and Alexis Sanchez.
The European champions may be worthy favourites, but have genuine rivals in the star stakes at this year’s showpiece in the shape of their South American counterparts. Santos, a club made famous by the great Pele, will arrive in Japan with, among others, two of Brazil’s modern-day sensations: Paulo Henrique Ganso and Neymar.
Mexico’s Club de Futbol Monterrey, flying the flag for North, Central America and the Caribbean, also bring a squad packed full of talent, with Chilean striker Humberto Suazo and captain Luis Perez two notable figureheads. As for Esperance De Sportive Tunis, aiming to provide an African presence in the final for a second successive year, key players include Cameroonian forward Yannick Ndjeng and the Ghanaian Harrison Afful, scorer of the brilliant goal that secured the Tunisians’ place in Japan.
African talent will also be crucial to the hopes of Asian champions Al-Sadd Club, whose squad features the star trio of Mamadou Niang (Senegal), Kader Keita (Côte d’Ivoire) and Nadir Belhadj (Algeria). As for Asia’s second representatives, fresh from their J.League triumph earlier today, Kashiwa Reysol will carry the hopes of the home fans with a talented group of player among whom top scorer Leandro Domingues provides an obvious focal point.
Last but not least, Oceania’s champions Auckland City will be relying on the experience of New Zealand international stalwarts Ivan Vicelich and David Mulligan as they look to emulate their outstanding showing at the 2009 edition. The New Zealanders’ squad also provides some added pre-tournament intrigue with the inclusion of former Barcelona duo Andreu Guerao and Manel Exposito, who just happened to make his professional debut alongside a certain Mr Messi.
Exposito will hope to be involved when Auckland City kick off the competition on Thursday against Kashiwa Reysol, and you can stay up-to-date with all the latest news, interviews, reports and videos right here on FIFA.com.
To view the squad lists for Japan 2011 in full, click on the link on the right.** *