Auckland City FC captain Angel Berlanga wants to erase the disappointment of last year’s semifinal exit in the OFC Champions League.
The best way to do that is for the Navy Blues to produce a strong showing in Group D in Tahiti in this season’s edition and move on to the knockout stages.
The Aucklanders have been drawn alongside hosts AS Venus, Fiji’s Ba FC and Samoan qualifiers Lupe Ole Soaga SC, making for an interesting group.
Auckland City will likely start as favourites to top the pool and they open their campaign against Ba at the Stade Mahina at 5pm on Sunday (TAH time).
Last year’s 2-1 defeat to AS Magenta in the final four in New Caledonia was still fresh in the mind of Berlanga who said moving on to the next round was their main goal.
“It would be a big deal after last year’s disappointment,” he said.
“We want to redeem ourselves and do a bit better because the history of our club is a winning club. So, we want to get back on track and start winning again.”
The defender made his debut for Auckland City in 2010 and has since racked up more than 200 caps, while appearing at numerous FIFA Club World Cups, including their historic 2014 appearance where they came third.
He’s accumulated plenty of experience in the OFC Champions League and last year’s defeat to Magenta was a timely reminder that you cannot take any result for granted.
“You need to be focused on the game, on every team, because they’re good teams, they deserve to be here because they won their national league,” he said of Auckland City’s Group D opponents.
“So, we’ve got to be focused for 90 minutes because otherwise they can hurt you, they’re really skilful players so we need to be cautious and focused.”
As for the challenges that come with playing in the Pacific, the 33-year-old said he was ready for what the teams might bring to the table.
“The style of football is totally different. In the Islands, there’s more freedom, they’re technically skilful players so it’s always exciting to play against skilful players and face the best players in Oceania. So, everyone is really excited because this competition brings out the best of you and the club.”
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