Tahiti’s Pirae replace Auckland at Club WC

Auckland City FC have been forced to withdraw from February’s Club World Cup because of New Zealand’s strict coronavirus border restrictions.

They will be replaced by Tahiti’s AS Pirae, FIFA said on Friday.

The Tahitians could face European champions Chelsea, but face two tough fixtures first.

Auckland City, who reached the semi-final in 2014, losing to Argentina’s San Lorenzo, also had to withdraw from the 2020 event, which took place in 2021.

The forthcoming tournament is the delayed 2021 version, and will be held in United Arab Emirates from February. 3-12.

The competition normally features the continental champions but with the pandemic preventing a regional Champions League taking place since 2019 Auckland were nominated by Oceania’s governing body (OFC).

OFC have now chosen Pirae to replace them. Pirae were Tahiti champions for the ninth time in 2019-20.

Pirae will join five continental champions, Chelsea, Palmeiras of Brazil, Egypt’s Al Ahly, Saudi iArabia’s Al Hilal, and Montererey of Mexico.

However, to play any of those clubs they must first beat Al Jazira, champions of the host nation. The winners play Al Hilal for the right to meet Chelsea.

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