United to feel fury of Brazil's hot season

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The Independent Football

MANCHESTER UNITED were yesterday drawn in the easier group for next year's inaugural Fifa World Club Championship in Brazil. The tournament schedule, however, means that England's treble winners will have to play up to four games in nine days in potentially hazardous conditions.

MANCHESTER UNITED were yesterday drawn in the easier group for next year's inaugural Fifa World Club Championship in Brazil. The tournament schedule, however, means that England's treble winners will have to play up to four games in nine days in potentially hazardous conditions.

United will meet Vasco da Gama of Brazil, Necaxa of Mexico and Australia's South Melbourne in the opening phase of the tournament, which will run from 5-14 January. The winners of the group will play in the final against the winners of the other group, which will consist of Real Madrid of Spain, Al-Nasr of Saudi Arabia, Corinthians from the host nation, and another, as yet unknown side, from Africa. The latter will be known when that continent's Champions' League finishes in December.

All United's matches will be played in Rio de Janeiro, where the stifling heat and humidity of the summer is broken up only by torrential storms. There is normally no football in Brazil in January because the weather is considered too sapping for the players and the month offers the best time for a break in an otherwise continuous season.

United will play their first match on 6 January against Necaxa and their second, two days later, against Vasco. They will face South Melbourne on 11 January, and, should they win the group, will have to play in the final three days later. Real Madrid's group will be based in São Paulo, where conditions are slightly better.

The United director, Sir Bobby Charlton, was relieved that United and Real had been kept apart in the group stages. "That draw sounds alright and Madrid are in the other group," he said. "But the Mexicans will be strong, as will Vasco da Gama, but I know we will not be taking anything for granted. This is a new competition and we will wait and see what happens when we get out there."

The Championship is likely to be televised by the BBC, which has reportedly agreed to pay £12m for the rights, but a spokesman said yesterday that no deal has actually been signed yet. "There are still organisational details to be confirmed," the spokesman said, adding that kick-off times had yet to be confirmed and the BBC would need to be assured that matches would fit into domestic peak viewing hours.

FIFA WORLD CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP Selected fixtures (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): 6 Jan Man Utd v Necaxa (Mex). 8 Jan Man Utd v Vasco da Gama (Bra). 11 Jan Man Utd v South Melbourne (Aus). Winners of group play in final on 14 January.

* The Manchester United and England midfielder, David Beckham, has had a meeting with Football Association officials to discuss his recent on-field behaviour. "We can confirm there was a meeting on Tuesday. That's the end of the matter," an FA spokesman said.

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