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 games will come from Group A, before Group B begins on Friday, August 5 with Auckland City FC taking on Hienghène Sport before Rewa FC and Nikao Sokattak FC face off later that afternoon.
So what do you need to know about the teams who make up Group B?
Nikao Sokattak FC
The Cook Islands side were due to compete with clubs from American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga in the OFC Champions League 2022 Qualifying Stage for a place at this year’s event.
However, due to ongoing travel restrictions and logistical challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, those qualifiers were cancelled.
Nikao Sokattak were therefore nominated to compete by the OFC Executive Committee, based on sporting merit.
Previously, the side’s only two appearances in the OCL have been in the preliminary rounds of 2005 and 2006, with Stephen Willis and Nathan Tisam called up yet again 15 years later to compete in this year’s edition.
Alex Napa’s side will be out to cause an upset in their first ever OCL group stage.
Auckland City FC
Playing in their own backyard will offer an advantage to the tournament’s most successful ever club in their pursuit of a tenth OCL title.
Once again, New Zealand’s Auckland City will enter the 2022 edition as favourites especially given their brilliant domestic form so far this season.
Albert Riera’s side have already secured the NZF Northern League, winning 19 of their 20 games so far and are also through to the Chatham Cup semi-finals after a recent 6-0 quarter-final triumph over Dunedin City Royals.
With two former OCL Golden Boot winners, Emiliano Tade and Ryan De Vries, in their ranks and the likes of New Zealand international Cam Howieson pulling the strings from midfield the local side will be considered the team to beat.
New Caledonia’s representative arrive at the competition as reigning champions, having won the last fully completed edition of the OCL back in 2019.
In 2020’s eventually cancelled event, Hienghene were eliminated in the group stage so this represents a chance of a do-over title defence for Felix Tagawa’s men.
Bertrand Kai, 2019 Golden Ball winner, guided them to victory in a dramatic National Playoff win over SC Ne Drehu and remains their biggest attacking threat.
They come into the tournament on an eight-game winning streak in their domestic Super Ligue competition and will hope to carry that form into Auckland.
The OCL 2022 squads can be viewed here.
The Fijian side dispatched of Lautoka FC in a hard-fought National Playoff, eventually sweeping their opponents aside 5-1 on aggregate to advance.
Rewa’s one previous OCL outing was in 2017. On that occasion they exited at the group stage after one win from their three games and will be hoping for better five years on.
The addition of 2012-13 OCL Golden Boot winner Sanni Issa will certainly have opposing defences wary while influential captain Setareki Hughes has recovered from the concussion that kept him out of the National Playoff decider.
With Rusiate Matarerega also in fine form the Delta Tigers will have plenty of bite in this year’s edition.
The OFC Champions League begins on August 4 and Group B will begin with Auckland City FC v Hienghène Sport from Auckland, New Zealand at 12.00pm on August 5.
The final will take place on August 17 from 2.00pm local time.