Although only ten years old, Auckland City are old hands at the FIFA Club World Cup having competed at five previous tournaments. Their opening match was a 2-0 defeat against Cairo giants Al Ahly back in 2006. Appearances in 2011, 2012 and 2013 also resulted in single match showings with narrow defeats against J.League clubs on the first two occasions and Morocco’s Raja Casablanca last year. Undoubtedly their standout performance was at Abu Dhabi 2009 when the New Zealanders beat both the host representatives, and the champions of Africa. Those memorable victories over Al Ahli and TP Mazembe Englebert saw the amateur club claim an impressive fifth-place finish.
Auckland City, along with cross-town rivals Waitakere United, are by far New Zealand and Oceania’s best performed teams of the modern era. Success for the Navy Blues has followed a curious pattern with City crowned Oceania kings for the fourth consecutive year, yet on the domestic stage they have been edged out by their rivals Waitakere three years in a row until reversing that trend this year by regaining the championship. In keeping with that unusual pattern Auckland City’s 2014 Oceania campaign was inconsistent. Auckland finished second in their group after a defeat against Vanuatu’s Amicale, only to progress as the best second-placed side. They defeated Tahiti’s AS Pirae in the semi-final 4-2 on aggregate losing the away tie. They then needed a last-gasp winner to see off Amicale 3-2 on aggregate in the final.
Auckland’s squad has remained mostly unchanged over the course of their current four-year run at the FIFA Club World Cup, and that experience will stand the side in good stead at Morocco 2014. To replace former standouts Manel Exposito, Gustavo Souto and Albert Riera, who have all left in recent times to link with professional clubs, coach Ramon Tribulietx signed the likes of John Irving, who spent time with Everton, and Spaniard Angel Berlanga, who returned to the club after a spell with SC Goa in India. Auckland boast a handful of the finest young local players in the national league, but their most prized asset remains New Zealand’s most-capped player Ivan Vicelich. The evergreen central defender and team captain shows little sign of ageing despite turning 38 this year.
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