There will be one notable absentee from the line-up at the fast-looming FIFA Club World Cup.
Auckland City have become familiar to worldwide TV viewers, featuring in the past seven consecutive tournaments and nine overall.
Their unlikely run of seven consecutive continental club titles eclipsed the mark set by Real Madrid’s storied all-star team of the 1950s.
For the first time since 2010 a new Oceania side are set to make their mark on the FIFA Club World Cup – Team Wellington.
The side from New Zealand’s capital had inched ever closer to their domestic rivals over a period of several years. They agonisingly lost three successive OFC Champions League finals, before finally eclipsing the Aucklanders on away goals in an epic semi-final in April.
A hefty win over Fiji’s Lautoka in the final kick-started celebrations that had been years in the making. Now the unpretentious NZ outfit, affectionately nick-named TeeDubs, are heading to the FIFA Club World Cup to rub shoulders with the elite, Real Madrid and all.
First up are host nation representatives Al Ain on 12 December, with the winner to face Tunisia’s Esperance de Tunis.
FIFA.com dug a bit deeper to find out all about Team Wellington, their history, playing style and philosophy.
Coach Jose Manuel Figueira, who recently shared his story, said: “We are a forward thinking and energetic club. We have really improved the way we go about our work on and off the pitch.
“One of the key phrases we use as a group in the way we train and play is ‘full throttle’. It is everything or nothing, and that rings true on and off the pitch.”
OFC Champions League winners: 2018 (runners-up 2015, 2016, 2017)
New Zealand champions: 2016, 2017 (runners-up 2008, 2012, 2014, 2018)
What they said
“I have to say our culture and the selflessness of the players, and the passion with which they play for the club and each other, really stands out. The players are so hungry to improve in every match and every training session. I have absolutely no doubt we will see some of those elements against Al Ain. Our passion, application and work ethic is, domestically at least, second to none.”
Jose Manuel Figueira, coach
“This is going to be one of the most important things in my life. I’m trying to keep my focus and keep training really hard.”
Mario Barcia, midfielder
“We put in all the hours every week, every training session, every game, so it is reward for all our hard work and I think we deserve to be there.”
Scott Basalaj, goalkeeper
“Most people around the world might only recognise Auckland City as a club team from New Zealand, so hopefully there might be recognition that there are other good teams from the country.”
Hamish Watson, forward
“This means a lot to us, especially because it has been a hard journey to get to the Club World Cup. It is great for the profile of the club and even for New Zealand football.”
Justin Gulley, defender and captain
CLUB WORLD CUP | Nailed it! ?
— Team Wellington ⚫️? (@TeamWelly) December 4, 2018
Story courtesy of FIFA.com