"It's all about redemption for us. We were really disappointed about the way we performed last year," Waitakere captain and centre-back Danny Hay said. "We cannot start half asleep like we did last year."
In their debut as Oceanian champions, the West Auckland team gifted three soft goals in the first five minutes of the 2007 preliminary play-off. "We gained a huge amount just out of the experience," said 33-year-old Hay, who played for England's Leeds United between 1999 and 2002.
"We had a year of thinking about what was required at this level. We want to come off the pitch in this tournament after we gave our real, real best."
Waitakere and Australia's Adelaide clash for the first time here on Thursday in the play-off to reach the quarter-finals in the tournament of continental club champions. Also taking part are home side Gamba Osaka; Al Ahly from Egypt; Liga de Quito from Ecuador; Mexican side Pachuca; and Manchester United.
Waitakere coach Chris Milicich said the Adelaide game would complete "one unfinished business." "We've felt unfinished in the last 12 months. As a team, we've played very strongly and worked our way back here."
"The reality is we are never going to win this competition," he said, when asked if he dreamed of playing heavyweights Manchester United in the semi-finals by brushing aside Adelaide and then Gamba in the quarters.
"Where we're sitting right now is an opportunity to play the second best side in Asia," he said of Adelaide, who lost to Gamba in the AFC Champions League final for a place here. So we have to focus on the game and that game alone."
Milicich's side is made up of what he called "semi-professionals" who have other jobs or previously played abroad, mostly in Australia and Britain. In the past year they have signed players like Fiji international striker Roy Krishna, 21, whom Milicich called a "very exciting talent." Former J-League and Swiss League midfielder Adriani Pimenta of Brazil joined the side in October.
"Ultimately, my players all understand with a greater intensity what is required and we've built from there and continue to build," the coach said.