Read our preview of the Club World Cup which kicks off on Thursday. Teams, players, tactics, coaches and more...
Auckland City (New Zealand)
The story so far
The New Zealanders are Oceania’s most successful club, having won the OFC Champions League for an eighth time in 2016 with a victory over Team Wellington in April. They are preparing for an eighth appearance at the Club World Cup having become, in 2014, the only Oceania team to reach the semi-finals.
It will, however, be a challenge to replicate the achievement of two years ago, when they beat Moroccan hosts Moghreb Tetouan and Tunisia’s ES Setif, before losing to San Lorenzo in the semis but beating Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the third-place play-off.
Last year, they suffered a setback, when losing to Japanese hosts Sanfrecce Hiroshima in their opening game.
Founded only 12 year ago, Auckland have become the dominant force in New Zealand under Spanish coach Ramon Tribulietx, who has built a multicultural squad that includes Enaut Zubikarai and captain Angel Berlanga of Spain, Korean defender Kim Dae-wook, Japanese full-back Takuya Iwata, English defender Darren White, Croatian midfielder Mario Bilen and Portuguese attacker Joao
Moreira, as well as New Zealand internationals Reid Drake, Clayton Lewis and Ryan De Vries.
Spanish boss Ramon Tribulietx has been in charge since 2010 and is also the part-time national coach of Solomon Islands. The cerebral 44-year-old is seen as one of the region’s brightest young coaches and has been linked with a move abroad on a number of occasions.
The Solomon Islands international Micah Lea’alafa won the Golden Ball as the best player of 2016 OFC Champions League.
Tribulietx has overseen a switch in playing style at the club, moving from a more direct approach to a possession-based system. Young midfielder Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi will miss the tournament in Japan after suffering a training-ground injury. In attack, Ryan De Vries is an important source of goals.