FIFA Club World Cup 2022™ draw reveals pathway

Words: Agustin Fernandez

Sunday 15 January 2023

Picture: GettyImages

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The draw for the FIFA Club World Cup 2022™ has thrown up an exciting pathway for Auckland City FC but coach Albert Riera isn't getting carried away.

Auckland City FC face African Champions League runners-up Al Ahly in the first game on 1 February with the winners taking on CONCACAF Champions Seattle Sounders three days later. The winner of that game earns a dream semi-final with arguably the greatest club side in football history - Real Madrid.

On the other side of the draw, Flamengo’s last-four opponents will be Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal.

Riera downplayed the draw and preferred to deal in reality rather than fairytales when he assessed the situation in front of him.

"It is an interesting draw but I've said to our players the main focus for us is the opening game with Al Ahly. We can't look beyond that game that is the reality. Out task is to have a good game against Al Ahly and then maybe we can look at the draw.

"We hope we can do well but the reality is we have to train hard for the first game. The main thing for us is to believe we can do it and our work rate is important. Belief is a very important quality in football. Sometimes you are defending deep, sometimes you have the ball, but most important is to have belief," he said.

Auckland City FC depart New Zealand in two groups for Barcelona, Spain, in two groups on Monday and Tuesday next week and will train for ten days at the FutbolSalou Sports Centre, a facility used by national teams and professional sports clubs across a variety of codes.

It is also where Auckland City FC will play two of their three behind closed doors friendlies. Of the three friendly games scheduled, the third is set to take place in Barcelona city itself. All three opponents are known to Riera who was keen to keep his cards close to his chest before revealing the final details.

"We are training at the FutbolSalou just outside of Barcelona in Spain and we have worked extremely hard to get this opportunity. We will play three friendly games when we are in Spain and it was not easy to get these matches locked in.

"Past experience at Club World Cups has shown us that putting together a meainingful preparatory programme is essential when competing in a tournament like this because a lot of players don't understand what it is like competing at that intensity without looking at a sample of it first.

"When you see the first 15 minutes of these types of games you can see the players are technically very gifted because they are fully professional and don't have to go to day jobs or university like our players do.

"This all helps to enhance our players capacity and its a good experience for them and that's why this camp has been organised," he said.

With Al Ahly 15 games deep into a professional season and already with one domestic trophy in their burgeoning trophy cabinet, Riera says the Egyptian giants hold almost all the aces.

"Al Ahly definitely have an advantage over us because they have played 15 games so far and the match fitness that comes with that can't be replicated. Match fitness is there for them but for us our first friendly match will be our first game of any type since December 4 last year against Wellington Olympic.

"Our first 90 minute game will probably be in our third friendly game because we have to spread our players loading which is a setback, an adversity we have to deal with, but we're going to do that with the right mindset.

"The Al Ahly game is a one-off game, anything is possible, it might be different if it was regular season or a competition over many games, you have to put your focus on that and we will have a chance," Riera said.


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