Auckland City arrive in Japan
New Zealand’s Auckland City have become the first visiting team to arrive in Japan for the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup. The OFC Champions League winners are the tournament’s most enduring side, making their eighth appearance at the competition.
The team touched down in Tokyo after a warm-up game in Hong Kong and will have another friendly on Friday against SC Sagamihara before the Club World Cup opener on 8 December against the J.League champions.
The Navy Blues are a step closer to knowing the identity of their opponents after Urawa Red Diamonds defeated Kashima Antlers 1-0 in the J.League championship final, first leg. The second leg will be played on Saturday.
“It's good to be here especially in a tournament that the team has played for the last five times,” said 19-year-old New Zealand international Clayton Lewis. “The game against the Japanese opponent is going to be tough, but our boys are well prepared and I'm looking forward to it.
“We just had a training match in Hong Kong, and will have eight days of preparation in Japan. It's good as we will be playing a warm-up game this Friday and we can also get used to this cold weather.”
After valiantly storming to a third-place finish against the odds in Morocco in 2014, Auckland City bowed out at the first hurdle last year, losing 2-0 to then Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
“I feel very happy to come back to a tournament like this. It means a lot to me,” said Auckland’s Japanese-born full-back Takuya Iwata. “There will be no meaning if we don't win the first match. We really want to get through. There's pressure playing against a J.League club, but we will try our best.”