Words: ACFC Media
Friday 26 May 2023
PORT VILA, Vanuatu - Auckland City FC are set and ready to take on Fijian outfit Suva FC in Saturday’s 2023 OFC Champions League Final at Port Vila’s Freshwater Stadium.
The defending champions will be eyeing their elevenths continental title, while Suva are aiming to create history by becoming the first club from Fiji to be crowned the champions of Oceania.
Both sides had to dig deep to qualify for the showpiece event of the region’s premier club football competition with the Navy Blues advancing after a tense penalty shootout victory over local favourites Ifira Black Bird FC in their semi-final encounter and Suva edging past Tahitian side Pirae FC 4-2 in extra-time after their do-or-die clash has ended 2-all in regulation time.
Saturday’s decider will be the third meetings between the two teams with the New Zealand champions winning their first match 3-0 back in 2015 before a 3-1 victory against the Fijians just last week when they faced each other during the group stage of the competition in Luganville.
City coach Albert Riera says the defending champions are delighted to have reached the final stage of the tournament and determined to go all the way on Saturday.
“We are very happy and proud of having reached the final, it’s really a very special moment for the club, for the team and our intention now is to finish the job.
“We really want go out there and prove that we want to win this final, playing good football and competing well, adjusting to the elements, the pitch and the heat.”
“The fact that we are playing Suva doesn’t really change the way we are going to approach this game,” explained the City coach.
Having played each other last week means the Navy Blues are not expecting too many surprises, but Riera admits the significance of the occasion will add some extra pressure.
“Both teams know each other well, we’ve played in the group stage, we know their players, we know their traits, we know the way they play what they are trying to do but again it’s the final, and in a final it’s regardless whether you played a team or not, it brings some extra element of pressure.
“So the way we are going to try to play this game is not different from what we have done before, we have to be at our absolute best, defending every situation because what it has been proved throughout the competition that any mistake from any situation you believe it’s not dangerous you can conceded a goal, so we will have to get better in those moments.
“We will be trying to dominate the game with the ball, it’s what we want top do, it’s what has given us success in the past.
“Everyone is highly motivated, everyone is very well prepared, hopefully we can make everyone proud and achieve something we have been desiring for so long, which is winning another Oceania Champions League, “said Rieara
The winner of Saturday’s final will also qualify for the prestigious 2023 FIFA Club World Cup later in the year in Saudi Arabia.
OFC Champions League - FINAL
Saturday, 27 May 2023
Auckland City FC v Suva FC
VFF Freshwater Stadium, Port Vila, Vanuatu
Kick-off:2:00pm local time / 3:00 pm NZST
LIVE: WATCH HERE
AC - 1. Conor TRACEY (GK) 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL,4. Christian GRAY, 5. Michael DEN HEIJER, 6. Dan MORGAN, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c) 8. Gerard GARRIGA , 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Ryan DE VRIES, 12. Regont MURATI, 13. Nathan LOBO, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Joseph LEE, 19. Liam GILLION, 22. Tong ZHOU, 23. Matt ELLIS, 24. Joe WALLIS (GK)
Coach: Albert RIERA
Assistant coach: Ivan VICELICH
Goalkeeper coach: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
Technical: Adria CASALS
Physiotherapist: Matt PAYNE
Logistics Manager: Keith COTON
General Manager: Gordon WATSON
v Auckland United, Mon 5 June 2023, KO: 3:00 NZT