Estudiantes happy with Club World Cup draw

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BUENOS AIRES - Estudiantes were relieved to avoid Mexico's Atlante in their opening match at FIFA's Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi next month, said coach Alejandro Sabella.

The South American champions, who like European counterparts Barcelona have a bye into the semi-finals of the December 9-19 tournament, were drawn on Thursday to meet Congolese side TP Mazembe or Pohang Steelers of South Korea.

CONCACAF champions Atlante are favourites to get through their opener against the winners of a play-off between New Zealand's Auckland City and Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates and face Barcelona in the other semi-final.

"Mexican teams are always hard to play against because they run all over the pitch and have good technique," Sabella, who was Daniel Passarella's assistant coach at Monterrey from 2002-2004, told reporters in La Plata after the draw.

"We still don't have many details of the African (champions) but we'll see their match (against Steelers) live and then plan our match against whichever (team) qualifies," said Sabella, whose side are in the thick of the Argentine title race.

He said he would ask for information on the Koreans from compatriot Gabriel Calderon, coach of Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad who lost the Asian Champions League final to the Steelers.

UAE champions Al Ahli have been invited to compete alongside the six continental club champions at the tournament. The seven teams will compete over eight matches for a prize fund of $16.5 million, with the winners earning $5 million. Estudiantes, who lost ground in the Apertura championship with a 3-0 defeat at Rosario Central on Wednesday night, are due to arrive in Abu Dhabi on December 9.

Mazembe meet Pohang on December 11 and Atlante face either Auckland City or home side Al Ahli the next day. The first semi-final involving Estudiantes is on December 15 with Barcelona's taking place the following day. The final is on December 19.