The OFC Champions League 2022 gets underway this week with eight teams vying for the title of champions of Oceania and the right to represent the region at the next FIFA Club World Cup™.
The competition’s group stage will kick us off from August 4 at Ngahue Reserve, at the OFC Home of Football, Auckland, New Zealand.
The opening game on Thursday will come from Group A, with Galaxy FC and Lae City FC starting off the campaign before Central Coast FC and AS Vénus continue the action later that afternoon.
So what do you need to know about the teams who make up Group A?
The Tahitian side arrive for the OFC Champions League in high spirits following a recent win in the final of their domestic cup competition – the Coupe de Polynésie.
It was a result which, along with their National Playoff success over eventual Ligue 1 Vini winners AS Pirae, highlights Vénus’s prolificacy in one-off fixtures.
Head coach Samuel Garcia also has the pleasure of calling on a potent striking threat in Tahiti national team captain Teaonui Tehau – who scored 42 goals in the recently concluded Tahiti league campaign.
Venus reached the OCL semi-finals in both 1999 and 2001, when the competition was known as the Oceania Club Championships, losing to eventual winners South Melbourne and Wollongong Wolves on each occasion.
With the top two sides advancing from the group stage Vénus will have high hopes of reaching the final four for the first time in 21 years in 2022.
The Vanuatu representative are looking to complete some unfinished business in this year’s OCL, having had their impressive 2020 campaign cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In what was their first ever appearance at the continental showpiece, Galaxy advanced to the quarter-finals. Progression came after a shock 4-1 win over defending champions Hienghène Sport and battling to a 2-2 draw with New Zealand outfit Eastern Suburbs meant their final pool round defeat to Hekari United was not costly.
However, as the pandemic spread across the region, the 2020 tournament was postponed in March 2020 and was eventually cancelled in September that year.
Two years on and Galaxy qualified in style by beating domestic rivals RueRue FC 5-0 on aggregate in their National Playoff and will be looking to reach the knockout stages yet again.
Lae City FC
Papua New Guinea’s representative booked their place in 2022’s OCL in dramatic fashion, two late goals from Mathew David seeing them overcome 2009-10 champions Hekari United.
Perhaps their biggest strength is in defence, with the current starting PNG national team trio of goalkeeper Ronald Warisan and brothers Alwin and Felix Komolong in the back-line forming a resolute rear-guard.
Like Vénus and Galaxy, Lae City have previously advanced to the knockout stages of this competition, reaching the quarter-finals in 2018 and 2019 under the moniker Toti City FC.
Hopes will be high in Bob Morris’ squad of yet another progression in 2022.
Central Coast FC
If Lae City’s qualification process was dramatic then Central Coast’s was cinematic by comparison.
First-time qualifiers Central Coast scored goals late in normal time and extra-time of their Solomon Islands National Playoff to draw 2-2 with Solomon Warriors. They went on to win 4-2 on penalties to advance.
Clifford Fafale bagged both goals for the newbies with Solomon Islands international goalkeeper Phillip Mango the hero in the penalty shoot-out.
An unknown quantity for the rest of the group Central Coast will look to continue their impressive trajectory in Auckland this month.
The OFC Champions League begins on August, 4 at 12.00pm local time from Auckland, New Zealand with Galaxy v Lae City.
The final will take place on August 17 from 2.00pm local time.