Auckland City FC are old hands at the FIFA Club World Cup having competed at more tournaments than other club, even though they were only founded in 2004. And the Navy Blues have constantly held their own on the world stage, despite their semi-professional status. Without doubt the highlight was at Morocco 2014 where the club went on a stunning run before finishing third. Auckland only fell narrowly shy of an unlikely match-up against Real Madrid in the 2014 final having pushed South American champions San Lorenzo to extra time in the semi-final. Appearances in 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 resulted in single match showings with narrow defeats by J.League clubs on four occasions, plus against Egypt’s Al Ahly and Morocco’s Raja Casablanca. Abu Dhabi 2009 proved a breakthrough tournament as the New Zealanders beat both the host representatives, and the champions of Africa to claim fifth place. In 2016, Auckland City took the lead against Kashima Antlers before the J.League heavyweights came back to earn a last-gasp 2-1 win.
Auckland City are by far New Zealand and Oceania’s best performing team of the modern era. The Navy Blues were crowned Oceania kings for the seventh consecutive time in May, extending their own global benchmark for any continental cup competition. They did, however, fail to win the New Zealand domestic competition earlier in the year after losing to Team Wellington in the championship decider. Auckland City’s 2017 Oceania campaign was dominant from the outset. After winning all their group games on home soil, Auckland defeated Tahiti’s AS Tefana 2-0 both home and away in the semi-final. They then claimed a confident 5-0 aggregate win over compatriots Team Wellington in the final.
Auckland’s squad has remained partly unchanged over the course of their current seven-year run at the Club World Cup, and those experienced players – plus a host of fresh personnel – should stand the side in good stead at UAE 2017. Their experienced Barcelona-born coach Ramon Tribulietx has constantly maintained a degree of Spanish and Latin influence in the side, most notably through defender Angel Berlanga and midfielder Albert Riera, as well as, more recently, goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai. Auckland boast a handful of the national league’s finest young local players plus a handful of former or current All Whites, while dynamic Solomon Islands midfielder Micah Lea’alafa adds some Pacific Islands’ flair.
Facts and figures
Ben Sigmund, Paul Urlovic, Keryn Jordan, Manel Exposito, Albert Riera, Ivan Vicelich
Ivan Vicelich (defender), Mario Bilen (defender), Joao Moreira (forward), Micah Lea’alafa (midfielder), Angel Berlanga (defender)
Auckland City displayed their defensive excellence throughout the campaign by going six matches without conceding a goal, with their rearguard breached just once in the opening game.
The numbers game
9 – Auckland City are featuring in a record ninth FIFA Club World Cup.