Diamonds Are Forever?

Later on this morning, the roof will most likely be lifted off the FIFA Club World Cup when Urawa Red Diamonds make their entrance into the tournament against Iran’s Sepahan at the Toyota Stadium. In a rare sensible move from FIFA, the decision has been made to allow a team from the host country to enter into the competition, although, somewhat ironically, Urawa saved FIFA a lot of hassle by winning the AFL Champions League anyway. It would be easy to sit back and write Urawa off, but this is no team of amateurs. Based in Saitama, a city of 1.2m people just to the north of Tokyo, they are one of Japan’s best supported teams, with average home crowds of 45,000. In a recent pre-season tournament, they held Manchester United to a 2-2 draw. They may not have any players that are household names in the west, but only a fool would write off their chances completely. On the pitch, since the formation of the J-League, they have had mixed fortunes. They were founder members of the league in 1993, but finished bottom of it for its first two seasons. As recently as 1999, they were releagated from the J-League, though they made a swift return to it the following season. They won the J-League for the first time in 2006. It was in 2006 that they held...

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