Oceania Football Confederation > News > FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 > Unpredictable Raja still favourites

Unpredictable Raja still favourites

New boss Faouzi Benzarti has had a short amount of time with the Moroccan champions, but hardly enough to make fundamental changes to a team that has slumped to sixth in the league and lost a national cup final last month.
And defender Mohamed Oulhaj is wary of Auckland City’s Club World Cup track record when the two sides collide in the Club World Cup playoff in Agadir at 8.30am on Thursday morning NZST.
“Auckland City have played in this competition several times and have achieved some good results. We’ll be giving it our all to win. Anything but victory would be a huge disappointment for the Moroccan people, who are fed up with defeats. We have our hearts set on overcoming this first hurdle,” Oulhaj said.
Despite Raja’s controversies on and off the park, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx believes the home side hold all the aces in Agadir.
“We’re aware the Raja coach was fired a few days ago. The new coach will know what he has to do, he is an experienced coach he’s been to a number of clubs all over Africa, a number of big tournaments.
“He’ll make sure they are ready for this competition. They haven’t done well in the league but it’s easy to switch over and motivate the players for this one-off game,” Tribulietx said.
Raja skipper Mouhcine Moutouali is considered a dangerman with a knack for sparking attacking moves on the flanks and there is flair scattered throughout the Moroccans line-up.
Tribulietx acknowledges Raja’s capacity for creative inspiration on the hop but believes the Oceania champions are well prepared for the task at hand.
“Raja’s strength is to play a little bit unpredictably,” Tribulietx said, “Most of them are very good technical players and very fast on the ball. There will be moments in the game were their unpredictability will be the difference, so we have to be prepared for that.”
By contrast with Raja Casablanca, Auckland City’s preparations for the Club World Cup have been impressive.
A 1-0 win over the Wellington Phoenix in pre-season, an ASB Charity Cup win over Waitakere United and top of the ASB Premiership table after four rounds and a game in hand over the chasing pack is a more than healthy return.
The 1-0 defeat to RCD Espanyol in Barcelona last week left plenty of positives for Tribulietx to pick over too. New players like Cristobal Marquez, John Irving and Mario Bilen have also stood out.
But Tribulietx prefers to be pragmatic and down-to-earth about his side’s chances at the new 40,000 capacity Agadir Stadium tomorrow.
“To suggest we’re a better squad than in recent years is really hard to say. But we believe we’re in a good space, we have different ingredients, we can play to feet, exploit spaces in behind, so perhaps we’re more complete than in the past,” he said, “In the past few years we showed we can be competitive hopefully this year it will be the same.”
Auckland City’s selection options are wide open with the club noting no injury concerns ahead of the clash with Raja Casablanca.
Skipper Ivan Vicelich will lead the team out and said the All Whites failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil next year leaves Auckland City with a big responsibility in Morocco.
“For the country it was disappointing not to qualify for the FIFA World Cup again. Especially after such a great time in 2010.
“We have a couple of players from Auckland City involved with the All Whites and the disappointment of the country is now hopefully for us to fly the flag for Oceania and New Zealand,” he said.
With this the final FIFA tournament of 2013, Vicelich made his and Auckland City’s aims clear for their next match.
“Our aim is to restore the spirit to football in our country for all our supporters in New Zealand. We understand it’s going to be a very difficult game, very competitive, but every football team has a chance, if we stick to our game plan we can compete.”
FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 – Play-off
Wednesday 11 December/Thursday 12 December
Raja Casablanca (MOR) v Auckland City FC (NZL)
Agadir Stadium, Morocco
KICK-OFF: 7.30pm local/8.30am NZST
AKL: 1- Tamati WILLIAMS (GK), 3- Takuya IWATA, 4- Mario BILEN, 5- Angel BERLANGA, 6- John IRVING, 7- James PRITCHETT, 8- Chris BALE, 9- Darren WHITE, 10- Ryan de VRIES, 11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC, 12- Roy KRISHNA, 13- Alex FENERIDIS, 14- Adam DICKINSON, 15- Ivan VICELICH, 16- Cristobal MARQUEZ, 17- Adam McGEORGE, 18- Louis CAUNTER (GK), 19- David BROWNE, 20- Emiliano TADE, 21- Rory TURNER, 22- Andrew MILNE, 23- Sam BURFOOT, 24- Oliver SAIL (GK).
Broadcast details
Sommet Sports
Thursday 12 December
8.30am NZST
5.00pm NZST
10.00pm NZST
Story courtesy Auckland City FC Media.
For more on Auckland City FC go to www.aucklandcityfc.com

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