Oceania must play Japan in 2007 FIFA Club Cup

FIFA has changed its mind about host country participation in its Club World Championship yet again. The world football body has now ruled that the club champions of the Oceania Football Confederation's O-Leagie will no longer have an automatic place at the FIFA tournament. "Although the format for the six-match final tournament of this year’s Club World Cup in Japan will be no different from in 2006, the executive agreed to introduce a qualifying play-off between the Oceania champions and the league champions of the host nation, with the victors then lining up alongside the champions of the five other confederations," it announced rather contortedly.

With Australia's departure from the OFC, FIFA was faced with automatically accepting a near amateur club from New Zealand or an even smaller Pacific island alongside the five professional club champions of Europe, South America, Central and North America, Africa and Asia. In the 2007 edition, Oceania’s best will have to play-off against a club representing the host nation which, for the third consecutive year, will be Japan. The prize money for the new play-off has not been announced.

UPDATE (31 March)

Terry Maddaford of the New Zealand Herald reported that the prize-money for the new pre-tournament game will be US$500,000 to the loser, with the winner earning a minimum US$1 million in the next round. Auckland City, the Oceania representative at last year's club championship, received US$1 million for turning up for two matches.

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