Despite being founded as recently as 2004, Auckland City are veritable FIFA Club World Cup veterans, having competed at the global club showpiece on two prior occasions. The most recent of those, at Abu Dhabi 2009, witnessed the New Zealanders make history with a remarkable campaign in which they beat both the host representatives and the champions of Africa. Those memorable victories over Al Ahli and TP Mazembe Englebert, last year’s finalists, and the record fifth-placed finish secured, will surely ensure that no-one takes the Kiwis lightly this time around.
After the exhilarating highs of UAE 2009, and having clinched a third domestic title in four seasons the same year, Auckland returned to earth with a bump in 2010, surrendering both their national and continental crowns. However, while Waitakere United have won the last two New Zealand Football Championships, and though Papua New Guinea’s Hekare United represented Oceania at last year’s FIFA Club World Cup, Auckland’s spell out of the limelight has not lasted long. By April of this year, they had secured a return to the FIFA Club World Cup, seeing off Waitakere among others during a hugely impressive OFC O-League campaign capped by a 6-1 aggregate triumph over Vanuatu’s Amicale.
The task of emulating the club’s 2009 showing will not be easy, but Auckland’s co-coaches Aaron McFarland and Ramon Tribulietx are focused entirely on doing just that. McFarland described competing at Japan 2011 as “the sole ambition of this team”, while Tribulietx is equally excited about the challenge posed by December’s global showpiece. “It’s huge to have qualified for a Club World Cup and to get the chance to compete against players who are worth millions,” he said. “For a club like us, this is a massive achievement.”
Facts and figures
Ben Sigmund, Jason Hayne, Keryn Jordan
Ivan Vicelich (defender), Angel Berlanga (defender), David Mulligan (midfielder), Daniel Koprivcic (forward)
Auckland qualified for Japan 2011 in considerable style, emerging from the group stage with the competition’s only unbeaten record and going on to inflict a resounding 6-1 aggregate win over Amicale in the final. All told, the Kiwi outfit racked up six wins and two draws, scoring 18 goals and conceding just three over their eight-match campaign.
The numbers game
5 - the number of goals Auckland City managed in their last FIFA Club World Cup campaign, during which they beat home side Al Ahli 2-0 and African champions TP Mazembe 3-2.