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The insider's guide to the FIFA Club World Cup

By Greg Duke for CNN
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(CNN) -- Sunday saw the opening match take place in the third FIFA Club World Cup in Japan -- a tournament featuring the champions from all six continental confederations.

The competition has been beset by problems in recent years, but football fans all over the world can look forward to a feast of football over the coming week.

So is this the World Cup?

Absolutely not! The FIFA World Cup -- which Italy won earlier this year -- is for countries only and takes place every four years, whereas this is an annual tournament exclusively for the club sides that are the champions of their continent. To get to that stage, each of the six teams have to win their continental championship (such as the Champions League in Europe, or the Copa Libertadores in South America) first. Formerly known as the Club World Championship, this is the third time the tournament has been held, with Brazilian sides winning the two previous editions.

Why have only three tournaments been played?

The first competition took place in Brazil in January 2000 and was intended by FIFA to be a replacement for the Intercontinental Cup (also known as the Toyota Cup), which was contested annually in Tokyo by the champions of Europe and South America.

However, questions were immediately raised surrounding the selection of the teams involved as apart from the six continental champions, two other teams -- eventual winners and Brazilian champions Corinthians (as a host team) and Spanish giants Real Madrid (who had won the Intercontinental Cup two seasons previously) were also invited to participate to make it an eight-team event. There was further controversy when European and English champions Manchester United opted out of defending their domestic FA Cup title to compete.

The new tournament was not universally popular, but nevertheless a second edition was penciled in for Spain in 2001 to feature 12 teams. This was cancelled owing to a combination of factors, most importantly the collapse of FIFA's marketing partner ISL. It was then intended to hold the event in 2003, but this also failed to happen. FIFA eventually agreed terms with the Toyota Cup to merge the two competitions, with the first installment of the relaunched Club World Championship being held in Japan last year, won by Sao Paulo.

Which teams are playing this year?

The teams competing for this year's title are Spanish giants Barcelona representing Europe, Brazilian club Internacional (South America), Mexican outfit Club America (North/Central America), Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea (Asia), Egyptians Al Ahly (Africa) and Auckland City from New Zealand (Oceania). But it will be a major surprise if Barcelona and Internacional do not get through to Sunday's final in Yokohama.

Which players will light up Japan?

Barcelona's participation has given the tournament some much-needed good publicity. Last year, Liverpool represented Europe but not even the staunchest of their supporters could claim they were the best team in Europe, despite winning the Champions League to gain qualification. However, Barcelona are widely regarded as Europe's most glamorous and entertaining team and are packed full of world class players -- most notably Brazilian genius Ronaldinho. Last year, the 26-year-old was voted the world and European player of the year by journalists and has been voted the world's best player two years running by his fellow players. Added to the trickery of Portuguese midfielder Deco, the strength of Spanish defender Carlos Puyol and the guile of Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, it makes the Catalans hot favorites to lift the trophy.

But what about The Duck?

At just 17, the Internacional forward known as Alexandre Pato (which translates into Alex the Duck in Portuguese) is not only the youngest player in the tournament, but potentially the most exciting. Despite only making his professional debut last Sunday, Brazilian media are already comparing the teenager to some of their great players of the past. Not only did he score after just 94 seconds of his debut, with his first touch of the ball, but he set up two more goals and headed against the post. He is so highly-rated that Internacional already have a minimum $20 million penalty clause in his contract should the big European clubs show an interest in him. If the hype is true, the Club World Cup could well be remembered as the stage where football's next major talent became known to the world.


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Brazilians Sao Paulo celebrate their success in last year's FIFA Club World Championship -- now known as the "FIFA Club World Cup."

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