Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx has said that there is an atmosphere of “positive excitement” within the New Zealanders’ camp ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011.
The Oceanian champions are currently preparing to for next month’s showpiece, which also features Barcelona, Santos, Esperance, Monterrey and Al-Sadd, plus the as yet unknown J-League champions. It is those Japanese representatives that Auckland will face in the tournament’s opening match on 8 December, with tomorrow’s draw determining whether the winner goes on to face Esperance, Al-Sadd or Monterrey in the quarter-finals.
Tribulietx, however, knows better than to look as far as the last eight at this stage, particularly with the trio of remaining J.League contenders - Kashiwa Reysol, Nagoya Grampus Eight and Gamba Osaka – set to offer an imposing first test.
“Whichever J.League team we draw will be very difficult to beat,” Tribulietx said. “We train everyday and tailor the players programmes to fit with their jobs and study commitments. The players are excited but it is a positive excitement. I think it’s healthy.”
In their last appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup at UAE 2009, Auckland City emerged as the competition’s sensations, claiming shock wins over local favourites Al Ahli and African champions TP Mazembe Englebert, who went on to reach last year’s final. However, their coach is playing down expectations of a repeat this time around, and claims that his team will head to Japan under “no pressure” to emulate those heroics.
“What we achieved in Abu Dhabi in 2009 doesn’t happen very often so we must be realistic about our chances,” said the Barcelona-born Tribulietx. “Any time an amateur team plays a professional side, you have a tough game.
“It will be more difficult this time – it’s the Japanese champions on their own ground. But we’re leaving nothing to chance and we’ll be prepared for the game. We’re ambitious and believe we’re a good team – we’re going to give it our best effort.
"We have to concentrate on the first game and worry about the second one when and if it happens. I think everybody is aware the challenge is different this time playing the J.League winners first. There is no pressure to repeat what we did two years ago.”