Auckland City FC fighting fit

The Oceania club champions depart for UAE on Monday 30 November where they will play host club Al Ahli FCD in Abu Dhabi on 9 December in a competition that includes a cool $16.5 million USD of prize money.
Team captain and All Whites defender Ivan Vicelich says preparations have gone well and the players are eager to ride the wave of success New Zealand football has enjoyed since qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
“There’s no reason why we can’t perform as well as, for example, the All Whites did,” said Vicelich.
“They’re a fast team and a professional team so it will be very difficult but the way we’ve gone this season we’ve had some good results and the squad is looking really strong.”
Auckland City chairman Ivan Vuksich says the club has learned from their only other appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 and will be far better prepared this time around.
“When we went to Japan in 2006 we had to change our coach four weeks out from the tournament and we were unfit. I swore then that if we got another chance we would be extremely well prepared,” said Vuksich.
“Now with the hard work put in by Paul Posa and the other coaching staff, the boys will be going up there in excellent condition.”
The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 will be held from 9-19 December with the champion clubs from all six continental confederations participating plus the host nation.
As Oceania’s representative, Auckland City will play Al Ahli at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in a qualifying play-off ahead of the World Cup proper.
OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas says that if Auckland City can play well, Oceania’s case to get direct entry into the main draw will be strengthened.
“Our existence as a confederation is measured by results on the field,” said Nicholas.
“The FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA World Cup™ are the only two FIFA competitions where OFC does not have direct entry. We agreed back in 2007 with FIFA that we could forego our direct place in the main draw and play the host club. This was a win-win for FIFA and OFC. We believed our clubs were not as strong as the other continental confederations mainly due to the fact that many of them are amateur clubs plus we recognised that including the champion club of the host nation would enhance the tournament for FIFA.
“However, recent results from the All Whites, Young All Whites and Solomon Islands beach soccer team show we are punching above our weight. With another good result from Auckland City then once again we can put a case for direct entry into the main draw of this competition.”
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