Team Wellington and Hekari United have been drawn into the same group for the second year running where they will be joined by Suva, a side desperate to improve on last year’s disappointing performance on home soil, and newcomers AS Lössi.
Reigning domestic champions Team Wellington and Suva from Fiji will kick-off proceedings and the the men from New Zealand’s capital will be clear favourites. Matt Calcott’s side finished runners-up in last year tournament, after being pipped by six-time defending champion Auckland City in a tense penalty shoot-out.
According to Suva coach Gurjit Singh, Team Wellington can go all the way this year.
“We saw them during last year’s Champion League campaign in Fiji, they came very close to winning that. I believe they are even stronger and better now. The fact that they are the current New Zealand champions after beating a team like Auckland City in their title decider speaks for itself.”
Wellington will be flying high after capturing that maiden title four weeks ago. But coach Matt Calcott insists his side will not be complacent on Saturday.
“We haven’t had too much game time in recent weeks. With the national league finishing a month ago we are lacking a bit of match practise. We can’t afford a poor performance first up. In a group competition format, where only the top team is guaranteed a place in the semis, one slip up could be fatal. We can’t take anyone lightly.”
Hekari United from Papua New Guinea will start their 2016 campaign eager to prove critics wrong. The 2010 champions failed to progress to the semis last year after finishing second behind Team Wellington in their group and adding to the disappointment was losing their second consecutive PNG National Soccer League title to bitter rivals Lae City Dwellers earlier this year.
Hekari boss Jerry Allen believes his side has what it takes to repeat the club’s heroics from 2010. The key is for his players to believe in themselves.
“We have to focus on ourselves, and concentrate on doing the best we can. We cannot afford to be complacent or take anything lightly, if we do the basics, we should be ok.”
Meanwhile AS Lössi coach Stephane Drahusak couldn’t hide his excitement ahead of his side’s Group B opener against the former champions from PNG as they take to the field in this competition for the first time.
“We are very keen to get underway – from the players, the coaches to the management. We’ve been talking about this competition for a long time so we’re excited to be here and getting underway.”
Team Wellington v Suva FA
Auckland, New Zealand
Saturday 9 April, 2016
Referee: Nawen HOPKKEN (VAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Mahit CHILIA (VAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Lemusa ALATASI (ASA)
Fourth Official: George TIME (SOL)
The players: Chris Bale has an immense amount of experience in this competition from time spent with New Zealand’s other leading clubs Auckland City and Waitakere United. He is a great leader and relatively cool under pressure which could prove vital against a determined Suva.
The vital statistics: Team Wellington picked up 12 yellow cards and one red during their debut 2015 campaign. Cool heads will be required to make it through this competition unscathed, with the team as intact as possible should they progress.
Coach quote: “I know that they have three, four very good players, a bit of quality especially attacking wise. They made some good transfers and they made a lot of progress regarding their structure and style in recent years. I expect them to give us a very stern test.”
Squad list: 1. Scott BASALAJ (GK), 2. Taylor HOUGH, 3. Steven GULLEY, 4. Anthony HOBBS, 5. Bill ROBERTSON, 6. Chris BALE, 7. Leo VILLA, 8. Cole PEVERLEY, 9. Tom JACKSON, 10. Luis CORRALES, 11. Mario BARCIA, 12. Andy BEVIN, 13. Alex FENERIDIS, 14. William SCOTT, 15. Mark JONES, 16. Ben HARRIS, 17. Fergus NEIL, 18. Saul HALPIN, 19. Conor McGLINCHEY, 20. Michael GWYTHER, 21. Taylor SCHRIJVERS, 22. Alex CARR, 23. Michael O’KEEFFE (GK)
Coach: Matt Calcott (NZL)
The players:Former youth international captain Jale Dreola isn’t as loud as some leaders choose to be, instead choosing to lead by example. He’s a sturdy player unafraid of making challenges and taking risks.
The vital statistics:Suva did incredibly well in their debut appearance in this competition, scoring five goals which helped secure them seventh place in 2015.
Coach quote: “Both Fiji teams have been badly affected by the cyclone, it hasn’t been easy to prepare for this tournament but we are here now and we want to do our best, we are determined to gibe Team wellington a good run.”
Squad list: 1. Tevita KOROI (GK), 2. Epeli LEIROTI, 3. Tomasi TUICAKAU, 4. Jale DRELOA, 5. Poasa BAINIVALU, 6. Nickel CHAND, 7. Kaliova TIVULU, 9. Sakaraia NAISUA, 10. Rusiate MATAREREGA, 11. Madhwan GOUNDER, 12. Tomasi UCULOA, 13. Don RAJ, 14. Samuela DRUDRU, 15. Waisake NAVUNIGASAU, 16. Shahil DAVE, 17. Filipe BARAVILALA, 19. Pita RABO, 20. Setareki HUGHES, 22. Emori RAGATA, (GK), 23. Beniamino MATEINAQARA (GK)
Coach: Gurjit Singh (FIJ)
Hekari United v AS Lössi
Auckland, New Zealand
Friday 9 April, 2016
Referee: Nelson SOGO (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Jeffery SOLODIA (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Sione TEU (TGA)
Fourth Official: Robinson BANGA (VAN)
The players: David Muta is one of the most experienced players in this side and a born leader. The captain is a rock in the centre of the park, halting attacks while also proving a constant attacking threat himself.
The vital statistics: There is a strong core of players returning with this squad from 2015 which could give them the edge that comes with a side that knows each other well.
Coach quote: “I must admit I don’t know much about them, I’ve never seen them, I don’t know their players, but I expect them to be a strong opponent. My hope is that they don’t us either. ”
Squad list:1. Leslie KALAI (GK), 2. Daniel JOE, 3. Otto KUSUNAN, 5. Remueru TEKIATE, 6. Pita BOLATOGA, 7. John ALICK, 8. Papalau AWELE, 9. Karo ILA, 10. Tutizama TANITO, 11. Elkington MOLIVAKARUA, 12. David MUTA, 13. Tommy SEMMY, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 16. Jeremy YASASA, 17. Wira WAMA, 19. Koriak UPAIGA, 20. Ismael POLE (GK), 21. Barry MANSALE, 23. Joses NAWO, 24. Mathias IANI, 25. Felix KOMOLONG, 27. Gagame FENI
Coach:Jerry Allen (SOL)
The players: Jim Ouka’s addition to the squad is somewhat of a coup after the young talent proved more than capable of stepping up to senior ranks with Gaitcha last year. He also fired for the U-23 team at the Pacific Games and was vital to the side successfully defending that title.
The vital statistics: Only four members of this team have taken part in the OFC Champions League previously. Coach Stephane Drahuask, who took over the role in January, led the unsuccessful Mont-Dore campaign in 2013.
Coach quote: “Our first match is against Hekari United, we don’t know anything about them. Our approach in this instance is to worry about our own game. We need to concentrate, we will be determined and after that, we will see how we go.”
Squad list:1. Emmanuel WEJIEME (GK), 2. Kevin MAITRAN, 3. Jean Marie HMALOKO, 4. Dick KAUMA, 5. Pierre KAUMA, 6. Leon TAIN, 7. Leon WAHNAWE, 8. Wilson FOREST, 9. Jim OUKA, 10. Joerisse CEXOME, 11. Nathanael HMAEN, 12. Robert WAOUKA, 13. Romain PAINBENI, 14. Yorick HNAUTRA, 15. Fabian FOREST, 16. Paul OZIKA, 17. Jean Jacques WAHNYAMALLA, 18. Fonzy RANCHAIN, 19. Shafy MANDAOUE, 20. Mone WAMOW, 21. Marvin DRAWILO, 29. Thomas SCHMIDT (GK), 30. Michel HNE (GK)
h: Stephane Drahusak (NCL)