Dubai: Al Jazira’s Asian Champions League last-16 exit this week means Arabian Gulf League winners Al Ain — who were also knocked out of Asia at the same stage on Tuesday — will represent the UAE as hosts at this December’s Fifa Club World Cup.
Al Jazira, who represented the UAE at last year’s event losing 2-1 to Real Madrid in the semi-finals, would have only beaten Al Ain to the slot if they had won the Asian Champions League. But after both teams crashed out this week, it’s Al Ain who take the berth.
Al Ain are the second club to have qualified after Mexican side Guadalajara won the Concacaf Champions League final by beating Canada’s Toronto last month.
Both will be joined by continental Champions League winners in Europe, Oceania, Africa, Asia and South America, for the tournament, to be held in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain from December 12 to 22.
Al Ain, who completed an Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup double for the first time in their history this season, will play the champions of Oceania in the tournament’s first game at their own Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on December 12, in a winner-takes-all qualifier for a place in the quarter-finals. Should they progress, they will play champions from either Africa or Asia in the last eight.
Al Jazira achieved a run to the semis in last year’s first of a two-year hosting of the tournament, beating Auckland City in their opener, Urawa Red Diamonds in the quarters, before running Real close in the final four. The UAE also hosted the event for the first time in 2009 and 2010 but both representative sides then UAE league champions Al Ahli and Al Wahda, exited in the play-off and last eight respectively.
Al Ain will now be hoping to better Al Jazira’s best ever UAE finish in the tournament.
“This is a great opportunity that we have been looking forward to all season,” said Al Ain chairman Ganem Mubarak Al Hejari. “We have been hoping to guarantee our spot to represent the UAE in this competition. It is a tournament that adds value for the sport, the club, Al Ain, and me personally to be part of this.
“There will be world-class clubs competing in this competition and we will stand and show the same strength that saw us win the double this season. The world will see how the sons of the desert perform.”
The third team to qualify will be confirmed on May 20 when Fiji’s Lautoka take on New Zealand’s Wellington in the second leg of Oceania’s Champions League final. Wellington won the first leg 6-0 at home on Sunday.