The North African country has been chosen by FIFA to host the 2023 Club World Cup, to be held between 1 and 11 February next year

FIFA chooses Morocco to host the 2023 Club World Cup

SEBASTIAN GOLLNOW - FIFA president Gianni Infantino

The competition that confers the "best team in the world" award will be held in Morocco, as confirmed by the president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Gianni Infantino. After learning of the decision taken by the FIFA Council, he added that from 2025 onwards, the possibility of 32 teams taking part in the competition will be considered. Given the hype surrounding the World Cup in Qatar, Infantino stressed that the competition is being a "great success" with the final and the match for third and fourth place still to be played.

Infantino, who appeared at a press conference after the FIFA Council meeting, justified this impression in data such as audiences, what happened on the pitch and the "capacity for cohesion" it has had. What used to be the Intercontinental Cup, now called the Club World Cup, is not the first time it has visited the North African country. Previously the competition was hosted in Morocco for two consecutive years between 2013 and 2014. On both occasions it was the European representative who took the trophy, with Raja Casablanca being runners-up in 2013.

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After achieving the best World Cup ever seen by an African team, FIFA, unwittingly, has once again made it a historic day for Morocco. This succession of good news is the result of the policies of support for sport and football in particular developed under the guidelines of King Mohamed VI, as endorsed by the ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Madrid, Karima Benyaich. This unprecedented success in African football has many reasons, but there is one that tends to go unnoticed and has been key in the training of Moroccan players, namely the Mohammed VI Football Academy.

FIFA itself wanted to highlight the complex of the academy, which has first-class facilities and is key to the success of all categories of the Moroccan national football team. The success of Moroccan football at international level is not the result of chance. For years, Rabat has been working hard to raise the level of its sport and, in particular, of football. Passion for the beautiful game in Morocco is demonstrated by deeds, not words. Proof of this is that there were more than 40,000 Moroccan fans in the stands of the Al-Bayt stadium, out of the almost 70,000 who turned up for the second semi-final of the World Cup.

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Among the decisions taken at the Council of the highest international body, the main novelty is that it has been "unanimously" approved that from 2025 onwards a Club World Cup will be held with the 32 best teams in the world. It will be held every four years. "The first edition will be in the summer of 2025. In the past, in that window, there was the Confederations Cup. It will be the best teams in the world, but all the details will be finalised soon. It will be discussed in the coming weeks, in contact with all parties.

"This tournament should have been played in 2021 with 24 clubs, it did not take place because of the pandemic, we left room for the European Championship and the Copa America so as not to overload the calendar," he said. In addition, he also assured that the March window will be used for friendly mini-tournaments for four teams from different confederations. Among the novelties, although he did not name it at first, he revealed an idea that FIFA has for the next World Cup, in which for the first time there will be 48 qualified countries: "We want there to be 16 groups of three teams each, instead of 12 groups of four teams as would be the case with the current format", Infantino assured.

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Real Madrid hope to play the semi-finals of the Club World Cup on 7 or 8 February, with the final on 11 February. Obviously, Los Blancos will have to travel earlier, so they believe they will head to Morocco on the 5th. Alongside Madrid, the European representatives, will be Flamengo, champions of the Copa Libertadores, Seattle Sounders (CONCACAF), Auckland (Oceania), Wydad Casablanca (African Confederation), the champions of the Asian Champions League, whose final will be played in January, and the host country's representatives, Raja Casablanca.

The team that has won this tournament the most times with four titles is the white team, who won it in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The Madridistas have also won the Intercontinental Cup three times. Carlo Ancelotti's team, top favourites, will arrive in Morocco on 5 February.

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