ABU DHabi // The Auckland City coach Paul Posa is well aware that the UAE intends to celebrate hosting the biggest football competition in the country's history, but it has not stopped him from plotting to ruin the festivities. Auckland face Pro League champions Al Ahli on Wednesday night in the opening match of the 11-day-long Club World Cup. The last time a team from New Zealand played a Gulf side was a two-legged play-off against Bahrain for a place at the 2010 World Cup last month.
After a stalemate in Manama, New Zealand won the return leg 1-0 in Wellington and while Posa demands victory, he says he wants his side to go one better and break Gulf hearts in their own back yard. "The New Zealand team did well, but we never won up here," said Posa. "That's obviously what we hope to do. Al Ahli have a lot of strengths, but maybe they have a few weaknesses that we can try to exploit. Whether we are successful or not, we will need to wait and see, but we will be trying our best to spoil the party."
Posa identified the Ahli striker Bare as the main threat to his side's chances of securing a quarter-final tie with Mexico's Atlante next Saturday. The 27-year-old Brazilian netted 11 times last season and, despite injuries, has scored three goals so far this campaign. "We have done a little bit of research and we know they have a very good forward in Bare, who is often a target of many attacks. He is obviously a very classy player, but they have skilful players right throughout the team, including the defence. We are under no illusions," said Posa.
The Ahli coach Mahdi Ali is confident Bare will be fit to play some part in the match after picking up a knock in the 3-0 defeat of Ajman on Friday. The man likely to be charged with keeping the striker off the scoresheet is Auckland captain Ivan Vicelich. The experienced defender has collected 65 caps in a 14-year international career and played in both New Zealand's play-off matches against Bahrain. He says having players such as himself and South Korea's Lee Ki-Hyung in the ranks improved the Auckland side.
"We've got a few players who have international experience, whether it's on the international scene or professional football and that sort of mix in the team can only help our team spirit," said the 33-year-old. "We've qualified through our region as champions, so the players very much deserve to be here and they've been told by us to go out there and enjoy the situation." Vicelich, who led Auckland to victory in the Oceanic Champions League last season, was not part of Auckland's disappointing 2006 Club World Cup campaign, when they failed to score and conceded five goals over two games. But he says the players must learn from the experience and lay the ghost to rest on Wednesday at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
"It's going to be very difficult to get the result, but we are going to do the best we can," he said. "We've enjoyed some good preparation and there can be no excuses from us. Obviously, it all comes down to how we play on the day, but I can assure you we'll be giving 110 per cent and trying to cause an upset." The match kicks off at 8pm on Wednesday and there are a limited numbers of tickets still available.