Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns jet off to Japan on Monday, carrying the hopes of millions of South Africans - and continental Africa.
The African Champions will participate in the FIFA Club World Cup, which kicks off on Thursday with host side Japanese J-League winners Kashima Antlers taking on New Zealand Champions League winners Auckland City in Yokohama.
According to the club's official website, Sundowns will kick off their mission - a continuation of a campaign that coach Pitso Mosimane has dubbed "against all odds", on December 11 in Osaka, where they will take on the winner of the match between Antlers and Auckland City.
The winner of this clash will then take on Columbian side Copa Libertadores winners Atletico Nacional in Osaka , and the winner of this match on December 14 goes through to the final on December 18.
Other matches will feature Asian Champions League champions Jeonbuk Hyandai against CONCACAF Champions League winners Club America from Mexico, to be played on December 11 in Osaka, while UEFA Champions League winners, Spanish giants Real Madrid will open their account against the winner of the clash between Hyandai and Club America on December 15 in Yokohama.
Sundowns have registered a strong 23-man squad for the tournament, the biggest tournament that the African champions have ever played in.
Just the experience of playing against some of the best in the world will be invaluable for Mosimane’s side. The contingent will include players not registered for the tournament, and the preparations for this massive campaign have gone well - including a final 4-1 victory in their last Absa Premiership fixture against Free State Stars.
Japan is seven hours ahead of South Arica, which will be the first hurdle that Mosimane’s men will have to overcome, but they will have a week in which to acclimatise. The Tshwane giants then hope to make the trip from their initial base in Osaka to Yokahama 380 kilometres away.
Last year’s champions Barcelona, and their opponents in the final River Plate do not feature this time, and Real Madrid will be aiming for a second win following their victory over San Lorenzo in 2014 in Morocco.
The tournament features champions from Korea, Africa, Mexico, Columbia, New Zealand, Spain and host team J League champions.
The tournament will be played in two venues - the Suita City Football Stadium in Osaka, and the International Stadium in Yokahama.
Sundowns have registered the following players for the tournament:
Denis Onyango, Kennedy Mweene, Wayne Sandilands, Thabo Nthete, Tebogo Langerman, Asavela Mbekile, Wayne Arendse, Thapelo Morena, Mzikayise Mashaba, Siyanda Zwane, Soumahoro Bangaly, Ricardo Nascimento, Keagan Dolly, Hlompho Kekana, Teko Modise, Tiyane Mabunda, Anthony Laffor, Lucky Mohomi and Themba Zwane, Sibusio Vilakazi, Percy Tau and Khama Billiat.
The full list of fixtures:
8 December: Yokohama
Kashima Antlers vs Aukland City
11 December: Osaka
Jeonbuk Hyandai vs America
Mamelodi Sundowns vs Winner Match 1
Loser Match 2 vs Loser Match 3
Atletico Nacionale vs Winner Match 3
Winner Match 2 vs Real Madrid
December 18: Yokohama
Loser Match 6 v Loser Match 5
Winner Match 6 vs Winner Match 5