We are counting down towards the OFC Champions League 2023 by profiling each of the eight teams competing. This week it’s our defending champions and New Zealand National Play-Off winner, Auckland City FC.
Auckland City will go into the OFC Champions League tournament in Vanuatu in May as strong favourites to secure their place at the FIFA Club World Cup for the 11th time.
The dominant club side in Oceania for nearly two decades, the central Auckland club has won 10 OFC Champions League titles including a run of seven in a row between 2011 and 2017.
The club was founded in 2004 following the launch of a new premier domestic club competition, the New Zealand Football Championship.
Between 2004 and 2010 Auckland City FC rapidly emerged as one of the giants of Oceanian club football by winning two continental crowns and four domestic titles.
Their first Champions League title came in 2006 beating Tahitian side AS Pirae 3-1 in the final to qualify for the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
Between 2011 and 2017 they won seven consecutive Oceania Champions League titles under the guidance of Spaniard Ramon Tribulietx.
The highlight for the club was undoubtedly in 2014 when after winning the OFC Champions League they went onto reach the semi-finals at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.
In their third-place playoff match they defeated CONCACAF Champions League winners Cruz Azul on penalties to pick up an historic bronze medal.
To cap this milestone occasion the club’s veteran defender Ivan Vicelich shared the limelight with genuine football royalty after coming third in the Golden Ball award for the best player at the tournament, behind Real Madrid duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos.
How Auckland City qualified for the 2023 OFC Champions League
As national champions, Auckland City played theWellington Olympic side they defeated in the domestic final in the New Zealand National playoff, over two legs earlier this month. The first match was played in Wellington where Olympic took a first half lead only for City to hit back in the second half to secure a 1-1 draw. The second leg match at Auckland City’s Kiwitea Street ground was a classic and with a quarter of the game remaining it looked as if Olympic were on course for a major upset when they led 3-1. But City hit back in a frenetic final stanza scoring four goals to complete a 5-3 win and advance to Vanuatu 6-4 on aggregate.
The coach’s approach and hopes for the tournament.
“There will be no surprises. We have players with a lot of experience in these tournaments in the islands and others who haven’t been there. There are different elements to it, the climate, the heat, players that we’re going to be playing against who we are not used to playing against on a daily basis. Nobody’s easy. It’s very hard actually. The main focus is just plan, planning ahead of the game that we have this weekend. And that’s actually the best preparation for the OFC Champions League. I’ve been in Vanuatu as a player and it’s a great place with great people as well. They love football actually. I think it’s going to be a fantastic tournament. I think they’re going to bring about a great experience. We are not going to Port Vila, we are going to Santo (Luganville) But again, it doesn’t make a difference to us. So we are going there to do what we want to try to do, which is play good football and try to win games.”
Key player: Emiliano Tade
An icon of the club, the Argentine is on the verge of setting a club record of 150 goals. At the moment he is 149. He is also in great form scoring four times in the last two games and a hat-trick in the OFC second leg play off which turned the tide against Wellington Olympic.
Auckland City Fixtures
Sunday May 14th: Auckland City v Solomon Warriors
Wednesday May 17th: Auckland City v Suva FC
Saturday May 20th: Auckland City v Lupe Ole Soaga