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Liverpool favored for 1st Club World Cup in Qatar
By GRAHAM DUNBAR
ZURICH (AP) Nine years after winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar will get to show it can stage a FIFA soccer tournament when the Club World Cup goes to Doha.
Champions League winner Liverpool will be favored to extend Europe's run of 11 Club World Cup titles in 12 seasons at the Dec. 11-21 event.
Liverpool was drawn Monday to begin against one of four possible opponents, including Mexican club Monterrey, in the semifinals on Dec. 18. That is Qatar's National Day, and the date of the next World Cup final.
Liverpool, a six-time European champion, has never won the world title. The English team played in the Intercontinental Cup in 1981 and 1984, and in the 2005 Club World Cup.
"I was astonished to see it was a trophy they haven't lifted yet," former Liverpool striker Michael Owen said after assisting in the draw at FIFA headquarters. "I think Liverpool will be determined to win it. To be defined as the world champions is a huge honor."
Qatar will stage the next two editions of the often unloved club competition that FIFA is giving a radical reboot. A 24-team competition with at least eight European teams is planned to begin in June 2021, possibly in China.
Qatar will not host the 2021 Club World Cup because of the intense desert heat that led FIFA to begin the next World Cup in November 2022. Temperatures typically peak at about 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) in December.
Though not fully testing Qatar's readiness for the four-week, 32-nation World Cup, this year's seven-team club competition will showcase some of the wealthy emirate's plans to welcome teams and fans - including where and how to serve alcohol to fans.
In Monday's draw, the South American champions will enter the competition in a Dec. 17 semifinal match against African champion Esperance of Tunisia or the Asian Champions League winner.
The tournament opens on Dec. 11 with Hienghene Sport from New Caledonia in the only first-round game. The Oceania champions will play either Qatari league winner Al Sadd or the Asian Champions League runner-up if Al Sadd wins the continental title on Nov. 24.
Al Sadd is coached by Spain great Xavi Hernandez.
The Copa Libertadores is at the semifinal stage. Buenos Aires rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors will meet next month in a rematch of the chaotic 2018 final eventually won by River in Madrid.
Esperance advanced through another chaotic final in May to win the African title after the second leg was abandoned.
Moroccan club Wydad refused to play after an equalizing goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside. Players demanded a video review of the goal, and walked off after being told the system wasn't working. More than an hour later the referee declared the game forfeited in favor of Esperance.
The Moroccan club could appeal to the Court Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, after its appeal to African soccer's governing body was rejected on Sunday.
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Updated September 16, 2019