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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Al Ain ready to take on 'world class' teams after confirming place at Fifa Club World Cup

Garden City club confirm their place at the tournament as UAE champions

Omar Abdulrahman moved from Al Ain to Al Hilal in Saudi during the summer. Pawan Singh / The National 
Omar Abdulrahman moved from Al Ain to Al Hilal in Saudi during the summer. Pawan Singh / The National 

Al Ain will look to take their domestic dominance into the Fifa Club World Cup later this year, according to chairman Ghanim Al Hajeri.

The Garden City club booked their place in the December 12-22 event by winning the 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League - their first UAE top-flight title in three years and 13th overall. Sealed with one round to spare, Al Ain then added the President’s Cup crown earlier this month to complete an historic double.

Having finished their season with Tuesday’s disappointing Asian Champions League last-16 exit, the UAE champions will soon begin planning for an improved 2018/19 campaign. A strong showing at the Club World Cup will no doubt feature highly on their agenda, with the continental club competition taking place in the Emirates for a second successive year.

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Last year’s host representative, Al Jazira, progressed to the semi-finals, where they almost shocked European champions Real Madrid before eventually losing 2-1. Jazira led the holders 1-0 at half-time.

Al Ain, the second side after Mexico’s Guadalajara to book their spot in the seven-team tournament, were confirmed as the UAE’s entrant on Monday following Jazira’s elimination from the Champions League knockouts.

"This is a great opportunity that we have been looking forward to all season," Al Hajeri said. "We have been hoping for the opportunity to guarantee our spot to represent the UAE in this competition. It is a tournament that adds value for the sport, for the club, for Al Ain, and for 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."

Al Ain will kick off the Club World Cup on December 12 at their Hazza bin Zayed Stadium against the winners of the Oceania Champions League, with the victors of the play-off advancing to the quarter-finals to meet the champions of Africa or Asia. The Hazza bin Zayed Stadium is one of two venues used for the event alongside Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium.

"Abu Dhabi has shown pedigree in hosting major events in previous years," Al Hajeri said. “With world-class facilities and organisation, the Fifa Club World Cup will be no exception and raise the bar once again.

"Al Ain fans and the UAE in general love their sport, love their football and I know they will be looking forward to 12 December when the tournament starts."

The third Club World Cup qualifier will be decided this Sunday, when Fiji’s Lautoka FC take on New Zealand champions Team Wellington in the second leg of the OFC Champions League final. Wellington won the first match 6-0.