Words: ACFC Media
Thursday 7 December 2017
AL AIN, UAE - Angel Berlanga says the only pressure on Auckland City FC to perform well at the FIFA Club World Cup is what the players place on themselves.
"We don't feel we have pressure to win but we want to perform well so the only pressure is what we put on ourselves as players to be at our best. You know you have to give 100 percent to compete at this level. Al Jazira are a very good team but we have trained very well and everyone is buzzing to play this game and we are confident we can do well," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
In line to make a record seventh appearance at a FIFA Club World Cup alongside team-mate Emiliano Tade, Berlanga first appeared in the competition for the Navy Blues back in 2011 when they were comfortably beaten by Kashiwa Reysol 2-0 on a cold wet night in the industrial city of Toyota.
Fast-forward six years and Berlanga has been an integral part of Auckland City FC's success on the domestic and international stage with his goal against South American champions San Lorenzo burned into the memory of club supporters. Berlanga now sits third in the list of all-time appearances for Auckland City FC with 159 matches under his belt.
Only double centurion James Pritchett (203) and club legend and now assistant coach Ivan Vicelich (171) are ahead of him. He recalls his first experience of the FIFA Club World Cup and the allure of a competition that has come to define Auckland City FC as a club.
"Everything was new to us back then and as a player it was very exciting and the nerves played a big part in the experience in the first game because you are not used to playing in front of such big crowds and so many television cameras. But each year you get used to it a bit more, control yourself better and observe the atmosphere and manage the emotions better," he said.
While the competition has been a boost for Auckland City FC as a club there is no doubt it has helped boost players careers. A number of former Navy Blues have used the competition as a stepping stone into professional football with Tade, Berlanga, Tim Payne (Portland Timbers), Manel Exposito (KAS Eupen), Mikel Alvaro, Clayton Lewis (Scunthorpe United), Tamati Williams and many others picking up full-time contracts afterwards.
Berlanga used his opportunity to explore life in India's professional league with Sporting Club de Goa before returning to New Zealand to play for Central United and Auckland City FC after deciding it wasn't for him. Is the attraction of professional football a distraction for the Navy Blues players? Berlanga doesn't think so.
"Our players always aim to compete and do well and if they impress people maybe pick up a professional contract somewhere but to be successful we need to focus first on the match and play our best game - you don't think about becoming a professional player in the moment you're only focus is on the match," he said.
Yesterday, the UAE media was been critical of the Navy Blues domination of the OFC Champions League and pointed toward Auckland City FC's failure to go beyond the Club World Cup's playoff match in six of their eight previous appearances but its a record Berlanga defends strongly.
"We have nothing to be embarrassed about in terms of our performances. In the last seven Club World Cups we have performed very well because we play in an amateur league but have to play against professional teams when we come here. We have to make a step up that is vast and in doing so we haven't conceded many goals and always competed very well in every game."
Auckland City FC's match with Al Jazira will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 3 on Thursday 7 December from 5.48am NZST.
FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017
Wednesday 6 December / Thursday 7 December
Al Jazira (UAE) v Auckland City FC (NZL)
Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain City (UAE)
Kick-off: 9pm local time / 6am NZST
LIVE Sky Sport 3 (53) from 5.48am NZST
AC (from): 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Liam GRAHAM, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Darren WHITE, 10. Ryan DE VRIES, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 12. Kris BRIGHT, 13. Alfie ROGERS, 15. Dan MORGAN, 16. Daewook KIM, 17. Reid DRAKE, 19. Micah LEA'ALAFA, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Harry EDGE, 23. Marko DORDEVIC, 24. Conor Tracey (GK), 26. Callum McCOWATT, 30. Cameron BROWN (GK).
Coach: Ramon TRIBULIETX (ESP)
AJ (from): 1. Ali KHASEIF (GK), 3. Salem AL EEDI, 4. Mohamed AYED, 5. Musallem FAYEZ, 6. Saif KHALFAN, 7. Ali MABKHOUT, 9. Sardor RASHIDOV, 10. Mbark BOUSSOUFA, 12. Salim RASHID, 14. Eissa MOHAMED, 15. Khalfan ALREZZI, 21. Yaqoub HOSANI, 27. Salem ABDULLA, 21. ROMARINHO, 35. Abdalla RAMADAN, 36. Khaled AL SENAANI (GK), 40. Mohamad AL ATTAS, 44. Fares JUMA, 45. Ahmed RABIA, 51. Mubarak KHALIFA, 56. Abdullrahman ALAMERI (GK), 70. Ahmed ALHASHMI, 80. Salim ALI.
Coach: Henk TEN CATE (NED)
Referee: Malang DIEDHIOU SenegalSEN
Assistant Referee 1: Djibril CAMARA (SEN)
Assistant Referee 2: El Hadji SAMBA (SEN)
Fourth official: Sandro RICCI (BRA)
Video Assistant Referee 1: Clément TURPIN (FRA)
Video Assistant Referee 2: Emerson DE CARVALHO (BRA)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Mark GEIGER (USA)
28 February 2018, Trusts Arena, kickoff: 4pm NZST