An Oceania-Asia playoff gets the 2011 Club World Cup underway Thursday in Japan. Auckland City of New Zealand faces newly crowned J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol in a preliminary match, with the
winner advancing to play Concacaf champion Monterrey of Mexico in the quarterfinals. In the other quarterfinal, African champion Esperance Sportive De Tunis plays Asian champion Al-Sadd of Qatar.
Kashiwa qualified for the competition last weekend by beating Urawa Reds, 3-1, to claim the J-League championship and make history as the first team to win the Japanese title in its first season following promotion to the J-League.
Heavyweights Barcelona, the European champion, and Santos of Brazil, winner of the Libertadores Cup that determines the South American champion, are seeded into the semifinal round to be held next week. The final will be staged Dec. 18 in Yokohama.
Auckland City, an amateur team, is making its third appearance in the tournament that features seven teams from FIFA’s six continental confederations: the six champions plus a representative from the host country. In 2009 it beat host team Al Ahli and African champions TP Mazembe Englebert, and also represented Oceania in 2006.