We speak to Dan Orlowitz of the Japan Times ahead of Tuesday's FIFA Club World Cup semi-final with Urawa Red Diamonds.

City will face the Japanese club in our first ever match in a FIFA Club World Cup tournament at 18:00 (UK) on Tuesday 19 December.

How to follow City at the FIFA Club World Cup

Urawa reached this stage by defeating Mexican side Club Leon in Jeddah on Friday while City have entered the competition at this point.

Every match at the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup is available to watch in the UK on TNT Sports and FIFA+.

For fans outside of the UK, click here to find out how you can watch the matches in Saudi Arabia.

The official Man City app will also have free live radio commentary as part of our usual Matchday Live show that includes studio guests previewing and analysing the action.

In order to learn more about our upcoming opponents, we asked Orlowitz, who covers Japanese football extensively, the key information ahead of this match.

For more about Japanese football in general, you can follow Orlowitz on X here.

Style of play

Urawa play a 4-4-2 that has been brutally efficient in defence - a league-fewest 27 goals conceded this year - but lacklustre in attack.

The back line has been an iron curtain, with 37-year-old goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa delivering one of the best seasons of his career, but the lack of answers up front kept Urawa from being a true title contender in the J1 League.


Maciej Skorza was brought in to bring a bit more defensive order to the team and sharpen its attack, and he succeeded on the former if not always on the latter.

His impending departure from the club was announced before the end of the season, so the Club World Cup is his last hurrah.

Star players

Defensive midfielder Atsuki Ito is the domestic name to watch; he’s been terrific for Urawa on both sides of the ball and his form was rightfully rewarded this year with call-ups to Japan’s national team.

Remember the name, you may very well be seeing him in Europe soon.

Guinean forward Jose Kante led the team with eight goals in just 24 appearances; he’s announced his retirement at the end of the season so this is also his last hurrah.

Recent form

The team was riding very high after winning the 2022 AFC Champions League in May for its third continental title and a ticket to this Club World Cup.

The season ended in triple-disappointment after a loss in the J.League YBC Levian Cup final, a fourth-place finish in the J1 and elimination from the 2023-24 ACL in the group stage.

What does the FIFA Club World Cup mean to Urawa and football fans in Japan?

Urawa values international success perhaps more than any other club in the league, going all the way back to the club’s first continental trophy in 2007. Competing in the CWC is a massive point of pride for the club and especially its fan base, which remains the largest in the country.

For Japanese football fans in general it’s always great to see a J.League club competing in the CWC, although Urawa are somewhat more polarizing than other clubs and may have fewer neutrals cheering them on.

How much do football fans in Japan follow City and the Premier League?

Manchester City’s following has grown massively over the last decade; the club’s summer tour of Tokyo was a resounding success and the sold-out friendly against Bayern Munich broke the 19-year record for the largest attendance at a J.League-organized fixture (65,409).

Guardiola, Haaland and De Bruyne are absolutely household names among football fans.

The club’s Japanese-language Twitter has the largest following among Premier League clubs with similar presences, and is third in Europe behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.

On the whole, the Premier League is by far the most popular European league in Japan and has long been considered the target for Japanese players going overseas.