The Navy Blues’ first two matches, against Moghreb Tetouan and ES Setif have yielded two historic results, but skipper Ivan Vicelich admits San Lorenzo is on a completely different plane in terms of quality, despite the long hours Auckland City FC have put into preparation.
“We started pre-season in September and out of 200 days we’ve probably trained about 180 times. We are an amateur club but we like to have a professional attitude. There’s been a lot of sacrifice from the staff, the club and the players into preparing an as high quality squad as we can get.
“Its hard to attract top quality players being on the other side of the world but we have a growing reputation at Auckland City FC thats come with a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
“Some of the guys are working all day then coming to training. We’ve trained probably 90 to 95 percent of the last three months leading up to this tournament.
“We’ve enjoyed winning the two games so far but the last few days we’ve talked about how we can be competitive with San Lorenzo again,” he said.
A victory would be regarded as one of world football’s biggest upsets, possibly of all time in the context of the Club World Cup, yet guarantee the Navy Blues, who will wear their all white strip for the semi-final, a place in the final against Real Madrid who beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in the first semi-final.
It’s a mind-boggling possibility but despite that Vicelich remains as down to earth and pragmatic as he ever has.
“It’s been a great experience for the whole team,” said Vicelich, “Whats very pleasing for us as coaching staff and as players is at the moment we are seeing the rewards for all that hard work. We’ve come to this tournament hoping to be competitive but realistic at the same time.”
Auckland City FC garnered the tag of the tournament’s surprise package when earning their third ever win at the competition with a dramatic penalty shoot out win over host nation champion Moghreb and then outdid that effort with a 1-0 win over African champions ES Setif.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx praised his squad’s spirit, hard work and belief in each other after each result and expected another honest effort against the 15-time Argentine champions.
“We train like a professional team and that means big sacrifices from the players but I wasn’t surprised by the players abilities to cope with the two games in four days earlier in the competition.
“The morale after the first game gave us the opportunity to be competitive in the second game and the fact we still had our legs fully working was testimony to that hard work,” he said.
Tribulietx will keep his line-up close to his chest for the third straight match and gave the squad one full day off training two days ago due to the intense match schedule and travel itinerary.
“Psychology plays a role when you are winning and it can give you the ability to move mountains,” he said,”Overall I’m happy with the performance of these players in their fitness, team structure and their belief.
“They’ve shown they believe in the way the team play and we have proved we can be competitive no matter who we play against.”
Vicelich, who is thriving in the centre of midfield at the age of 38, said the intense schedule had demanded a lot from the Navy Blues, and included a 0-0 draw with Uzbekistan in Dubai 11 days ago.
“We have to understand that we have a New Zealand team in the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament which is very special and has created history back in our country.
“We hope it will help grow the beautiful game in New Zealand. But the reality is we’ve had players ask for more time off work, staff members have to change holiday plans to visit relatives in Europe, its been a really big challenge for us all in that sense, but we’ve got great people here working on that for us.
“The joy of making a semi-final is down to the players and the staff and all these challenges we’ve overcome have made it worthwhile,” Vicelich said.
The team finished preparations with an official training at Marrakech Stadium’s outer pitch facilities. The team is fully fit with Ramon Tribulietx expected to have full choice of his entire squad with the exception of long term injured pair Daewook Kim and Joao Moreira.
Defender Angel Berlanga has one caution from the last match and a second would mean a one match suspension heading into the third place playoff or final.
The referee trio is from Australia and is led by Benjamin Williams and assistant referees Matthew Cream and Paul Cetrangolo.
FIFA Club World Cup semi-final
Wednesday 17 December/Thursday 18 December
San Lorenzo (ARG) vs Auckland City FC (NZL)
Marrakech Stadium, Morocco
Kick-Off: 7.30pm local time/8.30pm NZST

Referee: Benjamin WILLIAMS (AUS)
Assistant Referee 1: Matthew CREAM (AUS)
Assistant Referee 2: Paul CETRANGOLO (AUS)
Fourth Official: Noumandiez DOUE (CIV)
SLA: 1- Leonardo FRANCO (GK), 2- Mauro CETTO, 3- Mario YEPES, 5- Juan MERCIER, 7- Julio BUFFARINI, 8- Enzo KALINSKI, 9- Martin CAUTERUCCIO, 10- Leandro ROMAGNOLI, 11- Pablo BARRIENTOS, 12- Sebastian TORRICO (GK), 13- Ramiro ARIAS, 14- Walter KANNEMANN, 15- Hector VILLALBA, 20- Nestor ORTIGOZA, 21- Emmanuel MAS, 22- Nicolas BLANDI, 24- Juan CAVALLARO, 26- Mauro MATOS, 27- Matias CATALAN, 29- Fabricio FONTANINI, 30- Gonzalo VERON, 31- Facundo QUIGNON, 33- Jose DEVECCHI (GK).
AUC: 1- Tamati WILLIAMS (GK), 2- Simon ARMS, 3- Takuya IWATA, 4- Mario BILEN, 5- Angel BERLANGA, 6- John IRVING, 7- James PRITCHETT, 8- Tim PAYNE, 9- Darren WHITE, 10- Ryan de VRIES, 11- Cam LINDSAY, 13- Joao MOREIRA, 14- Sanni ISSA, 15- Ivan VICELICH, 16- Daewook KIM, 17- Marko DORDEVIC, 18- Louis CAUNTER (GK), 19- David BROWNE, 20- Emiliano TADE, 22- Andrew MILNE, 23- Sam BURFOOT, 24- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK), 25- Fabrizio TAVANO.
Auckland City FC Clubrooms
Live Coverage
FIFA Club World Cup Semi-Final
Thursday 18 December, 2014 (NZST)
San Lorenzo (ARG) vs Auckland City FC (NZL)
Live on Sky Sport 2
Kick-off: 8.30am NZST