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CLUB WORLD CUP

Asensio the seventh Real Madrid player to miss Club World Cup duel against Al Ahly

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Marco Asensio is the latest Real Madrid player to be unavailable for their Club World Cup semi-final against Egypt’s Al Ahly on Wednesday after the midfielder hurt his hamstring.

Asensio suffered the injury in the surprise defeat by Mallorca and, during Tuesday’s training session in Morocco, was still feeling discomfort that will lead him to miss the last-four clash.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti also got the news on Wednesday that goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who didn’t make the trip to Rabat on Monday, will not recover from a groin injury in time to fly out should Real qualify for Saturday’s final.

Forwards Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard and defenders Eder Militao, Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy also stayed in Madrid for treatment.

Hazard, Vazquez and Mendy have been out with long-term injuries but Benzema and Militao, who were substituted in the LaLiga win against Valencia last Thursday, are not expected to be sidelined for too long and could join their team mates in Rabat later in the week.

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Ancelotti will be crossing his fingers that his key players can return quickly as they follow their trip to Morocco with Champions League last 16 matches against Liverpool and a Copa del Rey semi-final against Barcelona, as well as trying to catch their arch rivals in LaLiga.

Barca are top, eight points ahead of second-placed Real.

The winners of Wednesday’s match will face Al Hilal in the Club World Cup final. The Saudi Arabian side delivered a stunning 3-2 win against South American champions Flamengo in the other semi-final in Tangier on Tuesday.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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CLUB WORLD CUP

SHOCKER! Real Madrid pull out of Club World Cup

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Champions League - Final - Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - June 1, 2024 Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti celebrates with the trophy after winning the Champions League REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

The expanded FIFA Club World Cup which has put the organisation of the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations in disarray, is beginning to crumble.

Cup holders, Real Madrid, have indicated their intention not to participate.

Earlier on, the umbrella body of professional footballers has also frowned at the fixtures congestion which the novel competition appears to have caused.

According to Reuters’ report, Real Madrid will decline FIFA’s invitation to participate in the Club World Cup as the governing body have undervalued the compensation the 15-times Champions League winners should receive, manager Carlo Ancelotti said.

FIFA’s revamped international tournament, with 32 teams, is set to take place in the United States at the end of next season, with Europe’s best-ranked 12 clubs among those invited.

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Ancelotti, one of the most successful football managers in Europe, has won the Club World Cup three times and the Champions League five times.

“FIFA can forget it, footballers and clubs will not participate in that tournament,” Ancelotti told Italian daily Il Giornale in an interview published on Monday to coincide with his 65th birthday.

“A single Real Madrid match is worth 20 million and FIFA wants to give us that amount for the whole cup. Negative. Like us, other clubs will refuse the invitation.”

Ancelotti, who led Real to a Champions League and LaLiga double last season, said there had been a lot of pressure on managers lately but he had managed to stay passionate about his job.

“I see nothing particularly new, this has always been our job but the case of (former Liverpool manager Juergen) Klopp is significant. The pressure continues, the burden of responsibility becomes too heavy, obsession takes over,” he said.

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“I keep my passion, that’s how I live the match, the game, my job; I’ve always carried this balance with me. I’ve overcome moments that weren’t always positive; after my experience with Everton I was off the radar, they thought I was finished, I was old.”

With all three European club competitions expanded to 36 teams from next season, the Club World Cup has come under scrutiny for saturating the football calendar.

In May, FIFA said they would not consider rescheduling their 32-team Club World Cup after global players’ union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association (WLA) threatened legal action if they did not review their plans.

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FIFA counters players’ union; defends Club World Cup schedule

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Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are the Club World Cup holders

World football governing body Fifa has rejected claims that Fifpro and the World Leagues Association were not consulted over plans to host a 32-team Club World Cup.

It comes after players’ union Fifpro and the WLA called on Fifa to reschedule the tournament, due to take place next summer, amid a threat of legal action.

Fifpro and the WLA said “players are being pushed beyond their limits”.

In a letter sent to Fifpro and the WLA, which has been seen by BBC Sport, Fifa says it has “a duty and responsibility” to implement an international match calendar in the “best interests of world football”.

Fifa insisted Fifpro and the WLA were consulted about changes to the overall 2025-30 international match calendar, including the 2025 Club World Cup, which was confirmed by the Fifa Council in December 2022.

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Although it says it is open to talks, Fifa has no intention of altering next year’s Club World Cup, saying it is “fully within our rights to set the parameters of our competitions whilst respecting the regulatory framework in place”.

Manchester City and Chelsea are among the 12 European representatives at the expanded Club World Cup, to be held in the USA between 13 June and 15 July 2025.

Fifa point out that domestic member leagues of the WLA, such as the Premier League, can arrange their own competitions, noting the organisation of “international tours” in recent years.

Last summer, the Premier League hosted a six-team summer series in the USA, involving Chelsea, Newcastle, Brighton, Fulham, Aston Villa and Brentford.

Fifa also asked if Fifpro and the WLA had been in touch with other bodies, given their games “are responsible for a fractional amount of the total elite club games around the world”.

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“While we disagree with the tenor and content of your letter, we have nonetheless taken note of your concerns and are more than happy to invite you to discuss the matter further at a time convenient to you,” Fifa added.

-BBC

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Mamelodi Sundowns and ES Tunis qualify for Club World Cup

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CAF President’s Club, Sundowns Is South Africa Bafana Bafana’s Backbone -

South African and Tunisian clubs become latest teams to secure their places at the global tournament which takes place in the United States.

Mamelodi Sundowns and ES Tunis have become the third and fourth CAF teams to book their tickets to the inaugural Mundial de Clubes FIFA 25™ (FIFA Club World Cup 2025™), completing the list of qualifiers from Africa.

With previous winners Al Ahly of Egypt through to the CAF Champions League final once again, both the South African side and the Tunisian outfit are now guaranteed a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup via the ranking pathway at least.

The new 32-team competition, which will take place in the United States during June and July 2025, features clubs from each of the six confederations competing for the title of world champions.

With four spots at the FIFA Club World Cup for CAF teams, Al Ahly – the winners of the 2020/21 and 2022/23 CAF Champions League – had secured one place, while 2021/22 edition champions Wydad claimed another.

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There is still the opportunity for ES Tunis to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup as continental champions, as they will meet Al Ahly in the two-legged CAF Champions League final on 18 May and 25 May.

And in this instance, Mamelodi Sundowns would join them in booking a ticket to the USA next summer via the ranking pathway, despite their semi-final exit, due to their CAF Champions League performances over the past four seasons.

Should Al Ahly win the CAF Champions League – which would be their third continental title over the past four seasons – they would be joined by both Mamelodi Sundowns and ES Tunis at the FIFA Club World Cup via the ranking pathway.

This is because, in the event of a club winning two or more editions of the confederation’s premier club competition during the 2021-2024 period, the ranking pathway will be used to grant access.

Clubs that have qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup 2025

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Africa (CAF)

Wydad (Morocco)

Al Ahly (Egypt)

Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)

ES Tunis (Tunisia)

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Asia (AFC)

Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia)

Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan)

Ulsan HD FC (Korea Republic)

Europe (UEFA)

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Chelsea (England)

Real Madrid (Spain)

Manchester City (England)

Bayern Munich (Germany)

Paris Saint-Germain (France)

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Inter Milan (Italy)

Porto (Portugal)

Benfica (Portugal)

Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Juventus (Italy)

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Atletico Madrid (Spain)

FC Salzburg (Austria)

North & Central America, Caribbean (Concacaf)

Monterrey (Mexico)

Seattle Sounders (United States)

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Club Leon (Mexico)

Oceania (OFC)

Auckland City (New Zealand)

South America (CONMEBOL)

Palmeiras (Brazil)

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Flamengo (Brazil)

Fluminense (Brazil)

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