While most have their attention already directed toward Brazil, there's another World Cup already underway.
We are, of course, talking about the FIFA Club World Cup, which pits together the champion sides from each of the six confederations (CONMEBOL, UEFA, AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, OFC), as well as the champion from the host country, Morocco.
It undoubtedly feels like a battle for second place behind Bayern Munich—five of the past six winners have been a UEFA side and the Germans have unreal talent—but Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro might have something to say about that, and even if not, the tournament won't be any less thrilling.
Let's take a look at when to catch each match, along with a preview for both quarterfinal fixtures.
|FIFA Club World Cup Schedule|
|Match||Date||Time (Local and GMT)||Time (ET)||Round||Fixture||Live Stream|
|2||Dec. 14||4 p.m.||11 a.m.||QF||Guangzhou Evergrande vs. Al Ahly||FIFA.com|
|3||Dec. 14||7:30 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||QF||Winner 1 vs. Monterrey||FIFA.com|
|4||Dec. 17||7:30 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||SF||Winner 2 vs. Bayern Munich||FIFA.com|
|5||Dec. 18||7:30 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||SF||Winner 3 vs. Atletico Mineiro||FIFA.com|
|6||Dec. 18||4:30 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||5/6 Play-Off||Loser 2 vs. Loser 3||FIFA.com|
|7||Dec. 21||4:30 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||3/4 Play-Off||Loser 4 vs. Loser 6||FIFA.com|
|8||Dec. 21||7:30 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||Final||Winner 4 vs. Winner 6||FIFA.com|
Raja Casablanca vs. Monterrey
This is a compelling battle.
Mexican side Monterrey is coming off its third straight CONCACAF Champions League title and undoubtedly has more talent than its opponent, but the Rayados haven't played a competitive fixture since Nov. 9, when they failed to reach the quarters of the Liga MX Apertura.
Raja Casablanca, meanwhile, are not only playing in their home country as the hosts, but they don't have to worry about rust, most recently defeating Auckland City, 2-1, to advance to the quarters of this tournament.
Still, it sounds as though Monterrey captain Jose Maria Basanta won't let his team lose focus, via FIFA.com:
The experiences we’ve had in recent tournaments puts us in good stead for the match. We know we’re up against strong opposition in every game at this tournament. Just a moment’s carelessness could cost us our place in the semi-final. The matches require our complete and utter focus and are very intense.
Should the squad play with focus and intensity, Monterrey has the talent to advance to its second straight semifinal. But if rust becomes a factor, or if Jose Guadalupe Cruz's boys can't cope with the Moroccan crowd, Casablanca will move on.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs. Al-Ahly
On one side, you have experience.
This is Al-Ahly's fifth trip to the FIFA Club World Cup, and according to FIFA.com, Mohamed Aboutrika, Hossam Ashour and Wael Gomaa have made 10 appearances in the tournament, which is more than any other player.
On the other side, you have star power.
Guangzhou is led by Italian manager Marcello Lippi, who during his marvelous career has five Serie A titles, a UEFA Champions League title and a World Cup title. Al-Ahly coach Mohamed Youssef called Lippi "one of the most famous and experienced coaches in the world," via FIFA.com.
It will be compelling to see whose experience—Lippi's on the sideline or Al-Ahly's on the pitch—will win out for a chance to meet up with Bayern Munich in the semis.