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Club World Cup 2012 Team Intros: Auckland City

Club World Cup 2012 Team Intros: Auckland City

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Out to avenge their play-off exit in 2011 at the hands of Japan's Kashiwa Reysol, the Kiwi side will again open the tournament against J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima

PROFILE
By Paddy Higgs and Dan Orlowitz

The 2012 Club World Cup kicks off in less than one week, and is set to cap off the year in football as the world's most well-known clubs vie to be named the best.

The tournament, which runs from December 6 to 16 in Japan, will see the top clubs from all the world's confederations battling it out, and, while most football fans are familiar with the likes of Chelsea and Corinthians, several other competitors are in need of introduction.

In this series, Goal.com presents to you all seven teams that will be taking part in this highly-anticipated tournament. Here, we profile Auckland City.

SHORT HISTORY

Auckland City were formed in 2004 as part of the eight-team amateur New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC), where they are four-time champions. In the first two seasons of the league, City completed the championship-premiership double (league and finals), setting them up as competition giants. Auckland also qualified for the 2006 Club World Cup, where they lost 2-0 to African champions Al Ahly and 3-0 to Asian champions Jeonbuk Motors.

City's domestic dominance was ended by Auckland rivals Waitakere United, who became NZFC premiers in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns. However, Auckland still won the 2008-09 OFC Champions League (O-League), which meant that they qualified for the 2009 Club World Cup. There they memorably fared much better than in 2006, defeating both UAE champions Al Ahli and African champions TP Mazembe on their way to fifth place in the club's greatest moment.

Auckland also reached the 2011 Club World Cup, where they fell to J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol in the tournament's play-off round. NZFC premiers in 2011-12, they booked their ticket for this year's edition after beating French Polynesian side Tefana 3-1 on aggregate in May's O-League final.

TACTICS & PLAYING STYLE

Having served as an assistant at several clubs in his native Spain, Ramon Tribulietx was patient in a similar role at City until his ascension to the top job in 2010. With the help of a clutch of Latin players, the Spaniard has developed a playing style both pleasing on the eye and successful. How much of that will be on show in City's match with Sanfrecce Hiroshima is uncertain, however, with Tribulietx to perhaps consider a more counterattacking approach against some polished opposition.

THE STAR | Manel Exposito

The man who made his Barcelona debut the same day as one Lionel Messi remains the diamond in City's attacking crown, and will be determined to extend his side's tournament past the play-off stage. A journeyman before and after leaving Barcelona in 2005, Exposito has now been settled at City since early in 2011 and has proven himself one of the NZFC's most lethal frontmen. Expect the 30-year-old to be the figurehead as City aim to get past Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

THE SYMBOL | Ivan Vicelich

Now 36, Ivan Vicelich is back to lead City in his fourth Club World Cup, and is the rock on which his side's defence is built. A veteran of 85 international caps for New Zealand, including the 2010 World Cup, the 2009 Ocean Player of the Year can also draw on an extensive club career featuring stints in Holland [Roda JC and RKC Waalwijk] and China [Shenzhen Ruby]. Still an established All White, the veteran was firm in outlining his side's goals: "As an amateur club it's a big challenge and very difficult, but getting to the next stage for any team at this tournament is the aim, and we're no different," he told Fifa.com.

THE YOUNGSTER | David Browne
Browne's inclusion in City's squad makes him, at 16-years-old, the second youngest player to do so in the tournament's history. The Papua New Guinea youth international turns 17 just 11 days after the final in Yokohama, and will be hoping to see some time up front for City during the tournament.
THREE FUN FACTS

  • Attacker Daniel Koprivcic will make his a fifth Club World Cup appearance, having already broken the world record last year. He is one appearance behind all-time Club World Cup appearance holder Hossam Ashour of Al Ahly, who has played seven Club World Cup matches.

  • Fringe All Whites goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley held a one-match contract with A-League outfit Wellington Phoenix in October, playing 90 minutes between the posts due to the absence of both the club's senior goalkeepers through international duty.
  • Both Auckland City and Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly hold the record for the most showings at the Club World Cup, and will extend their history at the tournament to five appearances in 2012.

PROBABLE STARTING XI

Perhaps with one eye on the Club World Cup, Tribulietx - while also dealing with injury - has thrown his squad early in the NZFC season to find his best line-up. It adds to the uncertainty over City's XI, particularly given the Spaniard may elect to go somewhat with a somewhat more conservative approach on the bigger stage. Indeed, even who takes the place between the posts is unclear, with both Spoonley and Tamati Williams more than capable. But the main interest will be at the other end, where Tribulietx  has a wealth of options. Star Spaniard Exposito appears likely to lead the line, but whether he will be supported by Costa Rican Luis Corrales, Argentine Emiliano Tade, Englishman Adam Dickinson or Croatia-born attacking midfielder Daniel Koprivic remains to be seen.

Zambia

Spoonley
Pritchett, Vicelich, Berlanga, Iwata
Bale, Koprivcic, Riera, Garcia
Corrales
Exposito

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