Regional powerhouse Auckland City have established themselves as the supreme rulers of Oceania’s premier international club tournament. Following five consecutive titles the Navy Blues will be aiming to make it six-in-a-row on home soil.
They come into this year’s tournament on the back of a surprise defeat to Team Wellington in last month’s domestic title decider. However, with their unrivalled Champions League record and Ramon Tribulietx‘s men are favourites to go all the way once again. But the Catalan coach isn’t getting carried away.
“I don’t buy into this favourite tag. This is the most important tournament in the year and every game is a final. One slip up and it’s very difficult to recover.
“This is how we treat it and I’m sure this is how every other team will approach the games. We have three finals in the group stage.”
Solomon Warriors make a return to the regional stage eager to make an impression. Coach Moses Toata will rely on a squad mainly based on local Solomon talent apart from three Vanuatu imports.
The coach believes his side was drawn into the toughest group of the competition, but he insists the Warriors won’t be daunted by the challenge.
“I don’t mind that we are underdogs, in fact that’s a motivating factor for me. To play against the strongest team in the region can be a motivating factor. Firstly my boys will have to put in their best performance as individuals and if everybody does their best it will show in the team performance.”
Lae City Dwellers from Papua New Guinea will begin their campaign high on confidence after securing back-to-back domestic titles last month. The team boasts plenty of local talent with national team and Champions League experience.
Coach Peter Gunemba believes his side must start the tournament well if it wants to get out of the group.
“This is a very tough group, so for us to win the first match against Amicale would be a great and very important result. A big confidence booster. We don’t fear anybody, we came here to win.”
Meanwhile 2014 runners-up Amicale from Vanuatu will be keen to make amends for last year’s disappointing Champions League performance. Despite hoping to go one better in 2015, they failed to progress from the group stages before finishing sixth.
However, under the guidance of new Italian coach Mauro Bertoni, they have shown plenty of improvement at domestic level. Their fans will be hoping that success continues on the regional stage. But the coach insists, his side isn’t looking too far ahead.
“We only focus on one game at the time. We want to make sure we only concentrate on ourselves, we play our game, our style and the results should take care of themselves.
“We don’t look too far ahead, but of course, we need to start well, we need to put in a good performance and hopefully that will be enough to win.”
Auckland City FC v Solomon Warriors
Auckland, New Zealand
Sunday 10 April, 2016
Referee: Salesh CHAND (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Ravinesh KUMAR (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 2: Phillipe REVEL (TAH)
Fourth Official: Médéric LACOUR (NCL)
Auckland City FC
The players: With 35 Champions League appearances, 39-year-old skipper Ivan Vicelich gives Auckland City valuable experience on and off the field. However, the defending champions will also need meaningful contribution from the new guard that includes former New Zealand U-20 representatives Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Jesse Edge and Clayton Lewis.
The vital statistics: The match against the Solomon Warriors will be Auckland City’s 66th in this competition. By far the most experienced and most successful team at this level the Navy Blues have so far amassed 176 goals with an average just over 2.7 goals per game. At the same time they only conceded 55 times, an impressive defensive record of less than a goal per game.
Coach quote: “We have a lot of respect for teams for the Solomons. They are technically good and quick in their transition. We are also wary of their imports from Vanuatu, both Kaltack and Tangis are quality players, it will be a tough challenge first up.”
Squad list: 1. Jacob SPOONLEY (GK), 2. Marko DORDEVIC, 3. Takuya IWATA 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA 6. Jesse EDGE, 7. Reid DRAKE, 8. Michael DEN HEIJER, 9. Darren WHITE, 10. Ryan DE VRIES, 11. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 12. Nicolai BERRY, 13. Alfred ROGERS, 14. Clayton LEWIS, 15. Ivan VICELICH, 16. Daewook KIM, 17. Joao MOREIRA, 18. Danyon DRAKE (GK), 19. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 20. Emiliano TADE, 22. Andrew MILNE, 24. Diego RIVAS (GK), 25. Fabrizio TAVANO
Coach: Ramon Tribulietx (ESP)
The players: Vanuatu U-23 captain Brian Kaltack and his two compatriots, striker Kensi Tangis and midfielder Daniel Natou are players to watch.
The vital statistics:
Coach quote: “Oh it’s very tough, a tough nut to crack, but we don’t expect anything easy. Auckland is the strongest team in the group but for me the most important thing is to try and get a win, if we can’t win, at least go for a draw.”
Squad list: 1. Samson KOTI (GK), 2. Haddis AENGARI, 3. Matson FENNY, 4. Fred FAKARI, 5. Dennis IFUNAOA, 6. Molea TIGI, 9. Jerry DONGA, 10. Albert WITNEY, 11. Ian PAIA 14. Augustine SAMANI, 15. Daniel NATOU, 16. Emmanuel POILA, 18. Henry FA’ARODO 19. Gibson DAUDAU, 21. Brian KALTACK, 22. Milton FURAI, 24. Kensi TANGIS, 26. Loea Mani TAISARA, 27. Benjamin BAEORO, 28. Anthony TALO (GK)
Coach: Moses Toata (SOL)
Lae City Dwellers v Amicale
Auckland, New Zealand
Friday 10 April, 2016
Referee: Averii JACQUES (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Ujwaal MUDLIAR (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Campbell-Kirk WAUGH (NZL)
Lae City Dwellers
The players: Papua New Guinea international and former Hekari United strikers Raymond Gunemba and Nigel Dabinyaba will lead the line for Lae. The duo will be key to the team’s success.
The vital statistics: Lae City Dwellers will make their debut in the 2016 OFC Champions League this year, and have already secured their return in 2017 after winning the 2016 National Soccer League in PNG.
Coach quote: “We don’t know much about Amicale, we expect them to be a very good side, technically strong. I know they have some quality imports from around the world, some very good signings. But we have very good players too, all of them from Papua New Guinea and we want to do the best for our country.”
Squad list: 1. Matheson NASA (GK) 2. Mosebuya-Mosie MILUBWA, 3. Valentine NELSON 4. Goropaul ALBERT, 5. Japhet TIAMPO, 6. Troy GUNEMBA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8 Michael FOSTER, 9. Nigel DABINYABA, 10. Obert BIKA, 11. Joachim WAROI, 12 Mathew DAVID, 13. Adolf KUMISI, 14. Ken KEPE M, 15. Joshua TALAU, 16. Carlos PEKA, 17. Cyril MUTA, 18. Bewa WILLIE, 19. Esa NASA, 20. Ronald WARISAN (GK) 21. Peter DABINYABA JNR, 22. Billson BULLO, 23. John KICHANI
Coach: Peter Gunemba
The players: Amicale have signalled their intentions by recruiting heavily from overseas for their 2016 Champions League campaign. Players from Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Scotland and New Zealand have joined the club’s Solomon Island imports and local Vanuatu contingent. Argentinian striker Diego Nadaya, former Auckland City striker Adam Dickinson and Scotsman Colin Marshall are all primed to make an impact.
The vital statistics: Amicale’s squad has a distinctly international flavour with seven nations and three continents represented. Their success could depend on how they gel under Mauro Bertoni.
Coach quote: “We know absolutely nothing about Lae City. We have very little information, but I believe they will be a good s
ide. This is a high quality tournament every team which qualifies for it will be dangerous, we must perform to our best ability to have any chance.”
Squad list: 1. Mauro BOERCHIO (GK), 2. Ian HOGG, 3. Goshen DONA, 4. Gianmario LIBURDI, 5. Francesco PERRONE, 6. Colin MARSHALL, 7. Antonio VIOLI, 8. Jack WETNEY 9. Adam DICKINSON, 10. Fenedy MASAUVAKOLO, 11. James NAKA, 12. Dominique FRED, 13. Francois SAKAMA, 14. Alphonse BONGNAIM, 15. Diego NADAYA, 17. Nelson SALE, 18. Freddie KINI, 20. Seiloni IARUEL (GK), 21. Giorgio BERTACCHI, 22. Jackson TEMARKON, 24. Octav MELTECOIN, 25. Jacky AXIEL, 26. Diego GALVAO
Coach: Mauro Bertoni (ITAL)