Words: ACFC Media
Friday 8 April 2016
Picture: Phototek NZ
Auckland City FC’s defence of their OFC Champions League crown starts when the Navy Blues take on the Solomon Warriors at QBE Stadium on Sunday.
The Navy Blues have won seven of the last 10 Oceania club titles including five consecutive competition victories but their last outing in a major cup final will be a stark reminder of how difficult this next task will be.
Beaten 4-2 in extra time by Team Wellington in the ASB Premiership grand final at the same venue just last month after an unbeaten run that stretched back to January 2015, Navy Blues supporters were left smarting.
But the disappointment of domestic heartache will be put to good use when the Navy Blues meet the Solomon Warriors at QBE Stadium on Sunday 10 April at 1pm NZST according to coach Ramon Tribulietx.
“We have had a few talks with the team about our last game and I think we have learnt the lessons from the experience. We understand what we did not manage to do well in that game, both mentally and tactically, and it’s now time to move on and concentrate on what’s coming up,” Tribulietx said.
And what’s coming up is an opponent whose squad is talented, unpredictable and led by former Auckland City FC, Canterbury United and Team Wellington veteran Henry Fa’arodo.
Alongside Fa’arodo, the Solomon Warriors have also picked up three Vanuatu internationals with Daniel Natou, attacking midfielder Kensi Tangis and defender Brian Kaltack bolstering a squad brimming with skill and surprise.
“We know these players very well but they also have the likes of Gibson Daudau and Dennis Ifunaoa. They are all very good in one versus one situations and in transition they can be very dangerous.
“We need to understand how we have to play this game with the ball to make sure we reduce the amount of counterattacks we are on the receiving end of. The Solomon Warriors are definitely a team capable of the unexpected with the quality some of their players possess,” Tribulietx said.
Coached by Moses Toata, the Solomon Warriors have exited at the group stage twice previously but finished above Waitakere United in their section two years ago after they held the New Zealanders to a 1-1 draw in Lautoka.
The Navy Blues have added just one player to their squad with former Waitakere United forward Nicolai Berry making the switch across Auckland and Tribulietx says the 21-year-old New Zealand forward adds something special to the mix.
“Nicolai is a player well suited for our style of play, he’s got speed and has good qualities in one on one situations. He moves well into space, can score goals from different scenarios and once he adapts to what we want to do he will bring a different flair to our squad,” he said.
Auckland City FC and the Solomon Warriors face a tough task to advance to the semifinals with Vanuatu’s free-spending giants Amicale and the unknown quantity of Lae City Dwellers rounding off a formidable group.
Amicale have brought in no less than five players from Italy, a former All White and Navy Blue in Ian Hogg, and a one-time Auckland City FC Club World Cup hero Adam Dickinson. Argentinian striker Diego Nadaya and Brazil defender Diego Galvao ensure Amicale will be strong contenders.
Lae City Dwellers, OFC Champions League debutants, have recruited wisely for their first foray into continental competition with Nigel Dabinyaba, Michael Foster, Raymond Gunemba and Joachim Waroi all experienced internationals.
Three players who won’t be involved with the Navy Blues include former All White Adam McGeorge and Andrew Milne both for work reasons. Liam Anderson, listed as a goalkeeper during the ASB Premiership, is omitted from the squad.
The OFC Champions League kicks off on Friday when Nadi face AS Tefana at 1.00pm NZST and competition underdogs Kiwi FC meet 2005 finalists AS Magenta at 3.30pm.
For broadcast details of the OFC Champions League please visit www.oceaniafootball.com
OFC Champions League
Sunday 10 April, 2016
Auckland City FC v Solomon Warriors
QBE Stadium, Albany
Kick-off: 1.00pm NZST
Auckland City FC squad
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. Alfie Rogers, 14. Clayton Lewis, 15. Ivan Vicelich, 16. Dae Wook Kim, 17. Joao Moreira, 18. Danyon Drake (GK), 19. Micah Lea’alafa, 20. Emiliano Tade, 24. Diego Rivas (GK), 25. Fabrizio Tavano. Coach: Ramon Tribulietx.
Solomon Warriors squad
1. Samson Koti (GK), 2. Haddis Aengari, 3. Matson Fenny, 4. Fred Fakari, 5. Dennis Ifanaoa, 6. Molea Tigi, 9. Jerry Donga, 10. Albert Witney, 11. Ian Paia, 14. Augustine Samao, 15. Daniel Natou, 16. Emmanuel Poila, 18. Henry Fa’arodo, 19. Gibson Daudau, 21. Brian Kaltack, 22. Milton Furai, 24. Kensi Tangis, 26. Loea Taisara, 27. Benjamin Baeoro, 28. Anthony Talo (GK). Coach: Moses Toata
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium