Excitement is building for Auckland City FC forward Ryan De Vries as he reignites his love for Morocco and his dream of Club World Cup glory.
De Vries (31) was a key figure in Auckland City FC”s dream run to a bronze medal finish in Marrakesh eight years ago and says support of the locals was a crucial element he wants to see repeated in 2023.
“This is our third time in Morocco and I remember in 2014 when we went on that crazy run the Moroccan fans were right behind us and I hope they can come out again and support us.
“It’s a beautiful country, beautiful people and they love football so its nice to see they’ve come out to support us and I hope we see them at the stadium.
“I’m feeling excited even though its going to be a tough game but the boys have prepared well and we’re looking forward to the game.
“Al Ahly a very good team and very strong and very good attacking and defending. I wouldn’t say there’s anything specific that we’re worried about.
“We had a very good training camp in Spain in the lead up to this so we know what to do to get the best opportunity to win the game.
“It’s been a big improvement since the first friendly game, then our second against the Korean champs Jeonbuk Motors, then the 1-1 draw with Barcelona B, which was our last test before we arrived in Morocco, so the team is in good shape and we’re focused on the game,” De Vries said.
De Vries scored an era-defining goal when City upset CONCACAF Champions League winners Cruz Azul in the third place match but said there was no special recipe for overcoming the odds.
In fact, De Vries attitude to things could even be described as somewhat matter-of-fact as he perhaps tried to break down a mammoth task into smaller pieces.
Obsessing over the qualities of an opponent with over 100 trophies in the cabinet over the best part of a century could perhaps even make the game with Al Ahly feel like mission impossible.
De Vries says nerves are normal but has a simple philosophy in mind for match day.
“Normally before the game you carry on as normal as possible but on the way to the game that’s when things start to get real.
“Once you get to the stadium and been on the pitch and walked around, put our kit on and warmed up the anxiety and nerves disappear. We just go out there and do our job.
“We’ll stick to what we do best, we know it’ll be tough, stick together, keep the ball, move it around, take our opportunities. We know what needs to be done and we’re just looking forward to the game now,” he said.
Victory for either side sets up a mouth-watering quarter-final with Seattle Sounders on February 4, a game that would guarantee the losing side at least US$1 million in prizemoney.
Beyond the Seattle match lies a fairy tale semi-final with UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid.
Tournament incentives (all US$):
Winner $5 million
Runner-up $4 million
Third place $2.5 million
Fourth place $2 million
Fifth place $1.5 million
Sixth place $1 million
Seventh place $500,000
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)
How to watch
The game will be broadcast by Sky Sport in New Zealand on Thursday 2 February 2, 2023 from 8am (NZT). Sky are yet to confirm the channel in which the game will feature.)
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.
Our thanks to Auckland City Media for providing this report.