Auckland City FC defender Adam Mitchell believes they are as prepared as they could possibly be ahead of their FIFA Club World Cup opener with Egyptian giants Al Ahly.
The winner of Thursday morning’s match in Morocco (8am NZT) earns $1M USD while the loser picks up $500,000 USD but Mitchell isn’t focused on the dollars and cents.
In fact, Mitchell – who has set aside his job as a real estate agent to be in Morocco – is purely focused on helping City deliver the best performance possible to cause a massive upset.
An intense ten day preparation camp in Barcelona has Mitchell believing the Oceania Club champions have a decent chance against their much vaunted opposition in Tangier.
“The training has been good up to now and we had a good time based in Spain at a training camp where we played three good friendly games starting with FC Reus, Jeonbuk Motors then a 1-1 draw with Barcelona B.”
“With the Barcelona B game, we felt a bit of disappointment that we didn’t actually go on to win the game which is a really good sign ahead of the game with Al Ahly.”
“We’re playing a different calibre of opposition than we’re used to so we’ve done a lot of work on spacing and working together as a team focusing on our defensive, midfield and striker lines.
“Everyone defends as a whole and we haven’t conceded a lot of goals in previous years in the New Zealand leagues and we’re looking to come here and get a clean sheet as always.
“We’ve got a lot of good players, intelligent players, players with good football brains and coaches love to tinker with tactics and Albert Riera (Coach) has been really good with us and so not a lot has changed.”
“We’re altering a few things to cater to the opposition. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time since winning the OFC Champions League and everyone is itching to get over here,” he said.
One aspect of the long journey that has captured Mitchell’s imagination has been the warm welcome of the Moroccan people.
Mitchell was preparing for the FIFA U-20 World Cup back when City won its one and only FIFA Club World Cup bronze medal in 2014 so missed out on the miracle in Morocco but he says he is learning fast what football and friendliness mean in the North African country.
“The welcome by the people of Morocco has been really good. It’s a great country with great people and there is a bit of a good feeling that seems to be growing.
“I spoke with the City players who have been here before like Ryan De Vries, Emiliano Tade and Takuya Iwata and when they came third they said the Moroccan fans were right behind them.”
Mitchell has also kept on eye on all things to do with the recent flash floods in Auckland and had this to say:
“It’s been tough to see the floods back home in New Zealand on social media. We send our love and support to everyone in New Zealand from Morocco.
“If anyone wants to reach out to us I’m sure everyone will be on each other’s side but it is tough to see but hopefully we can get through this together.”
Video courtesy of Auckland City.