Auckland City fulltimers wanted for cup

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012
Angel Berlanga
Getty Images
CLEARED AWAY: Auckland City's Angel Berlanga clears the ball away from under the feet of Hiroshima's Yojiro Takahagi during their Fifa Club World Cup match.

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Auckland City leave football's Club World Cup with their credibility and that of the Oceania confederation intact.

But coach Ramon Tribulietx believes his amateurs need to become "fulltime" players if they want to threaten the final stages of the lucrative tournament in future.

City's involvement in the 2012 edition lasted just 90 minutes despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Tamati Williams, who produced a string of saves to ensure the Oceania champions at least bowed out at the first stage with their heads held high.

Auckland lost their playoff match 1-0 to J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Yokohama yesterday, courtesy of a long-range effort from Toshihiro Aoyama in the 59th minute, who was finally able to beat Williams after the goalkeeper had kept the Aucklanders in the match and even ignited thoughts of a boilover as the hour-mark approached.

The loss sends Auckland packing from the seven-team tournament. Hiroshima win a spot in the quarterfinals against Egypt's Al-Ahly, the African club champions, and are guaranteed a US$1 million payday, and Auckland receive half that amount, which will be split between themselves (roughly 25 per cent), New Zealand Football and the other seven national league franchises.

"I think we have to be very happy with the way we played. Don't forget we're an amateur side and playing Hiroshima in Japan is very hard for us," Tribulietx said.

"We competed even to the very end and when we went 0-1 down we suited back up and even had a chance to equalise right at the end. We are defeated but we can keep our heads really high.

"We showed with our facilities and our structure that we can present a good image of New Zealand football and I think we can be happy with that."

Tribulietx suggested that, with players having to work eight-hour days before turning up for training, "we definitely have to go fulltime if we want to make it into the final stages of the Club World Cup".

City lost at the same preliminary stage last year but in 2009 they progressed to the quarterfinals, and finished fifth of seven teams and achieved two wins against professional sides.

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