Auckland City defender Adam Mitchell says the Kiwi underdogs are ready for their FIFA Club World Cup opener with Egyptian giants Al Ahly.
The prize purse up for grabs for the winning team is US$1 million while the loser picks up US$500,000 but Mitchell isn’t focused on the dollars and cents.
In fact, Mitchell — who has set aside his job as a real estate agent to be in Morocco — is purely focused on helping City deliver the best performance possible to cause a massive upset.
Main photo: Mitchell talks to the media.Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
An intense ten-day preparation camp in Barcelona gave Mitchell faith City have a decent chance to at least be competitive come 1 February in Tangier.
“The training has been good up to now and we had a good time based in Spain at a training camp where we played three good friendly games starting with FC Reus, Jeonbuk Motors, then a 1-1 draw with Barcelona B.
“With the Barcelona B game, we felt a bit of disappointment that we didn’t actually go on to win the game which is a really good sign ahead of the game with Al Ahly.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on our defensive shape because we know its going to be tough at the Club World Cup.
“We’re playing a different calibre of opposition than we’re used to so we’ve done a lot of work on spacing and working together as a team focusing on our defensive, midfield and striker lines.
“Everyone defends as a whole and we haven’t conceded a lot of goals in previous years in the New Zealand leagues and we’re looking to come here and get a clean sheet as always.
“As a defender in a defensive line alongside a goalkeeper means you’re always looking to keep a clean sheet. We’re feeling very comfortable and are comfortable on the ball particularly in the Barce B game.
“We’ve got a lot of good players, intelligent players, players with good football brains and coaches love to tinker with tactics and Albert Riera has been really good with us and so not a lot has changed.
“We’re altering a few things to cater to the opposition. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time since winning the OFC Champions League and everyone is itching to get over here,” he said.
One aspect of the long journey that has captured Mitchell’s imagination has been the warm welcome of the Moroccan people.
Mitchell was preparing for the FIFA U-20 World Cup back when City won its one and only FIFA Club World Cup bronze medal in 2014 so missed out on the miracle in Morocco but he says he is learning fast what football and friendliness mean in Tetouan and Tangier.
“The welcome by the people of Morocco has been really good. It’s a great country with great people and there is a bit of a good feeling that seems to be growing.
“I spoke with the City players who have been here before like Ryan De Vries, Emiliano Tade and Takuya Iwata and when they came third they said the Moroccan fans were right behind them.
“There was a great atmosphere in 2014 in Morocco and if you look at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Morocco came fourth in that and they had the crowd behind them and it was a great sight to see.
“Hopefully they can get in behind us because we’re a long way from home and give us that extra step forward. We’ll be trying to put our emotions to one side and focus solely on Al Ahly,” he said.
Mitchell has also kept an eye on all things to do with the recent flash floods in Auckland and had this to say:
“It’s been tough to see the floods back home in New Zealand on social media. We send our love and support to everyone in New Zealand from Morocco.
“If anyone wants to reach out to us I’m sure everyone will be on each other’s side but it is tough to see but hopefully we can get through this together.”
Auckland City have two more training sessions in Tetouan before relocating to Tangier on January 31. The 90-minute bus journey will be followed by a familiarisation walkover for the players instead of a training session.
The walkover has been reduced to just half an hour with FIFA keen to preserve the pitch ahead of the match by minimising contact although the local organising committee is delivering an opening ceremony for the competition which will mean City’s warm-up may take place in whole or part inside the 65,000 capacity Ibn Batouta Stadium.
Our thanks to Auckland City Media for providing this report.
FIFA Club World Cup (1st round)
Game to be played on Thursday February 2, 2023
Auckland City v Al Ahly (Egypt)
Tangiers, Morocco (8am NZT)
READ MORE: Our stories about Auckland City’s FIFA Club World Cup campaign >>>>
1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Christian GRAY, 5.Nikko BOXALL, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 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. Joe LEE, 17. Reid DRAKE, 18. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 19. Liam GILLION, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Mike den HEIJER, 22. Adam BELL, 23. Matt ELLIS, 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 25. Taukya IWATA.
INJURED: 6. Dan MORGAN (injured, did not travel)
COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
MASSEUSE: Natalia KOSINSKA
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
TECHNICAL: Adria CASALS
ANALYST: Jarrod WALLACE
MANAGER: Keith COTON.