Hometown favourites Ifira Black Bird are expected to have the support of a capacity crowd for Wednesday’s OFC Champions League semi-final with Auckland City.
Playing at their first OFC Champions League tournament, the three-time Vanuatu national champions have been passionately supported as they have reached the knockout stage of the eight-club tournament.
Main photo: Ifira Black Bird supporters at Sunday’s win against Tiga Sport. Photo: Kirk Corrie / Phototek.
Coach Jean Robert Yelou says his side will give everything when they play Auckland City who are trying to win their eleventh successive OFC crown.
“It’s a good challenge and experience for us and we will give everything, especially in front of our own crowd,” Yelou said.
Auckland City go into Wednesday’s semi-final after topping their pool which was disrupted by the withdrawal of Samoa’s Lupe Ole Soaga, meaning the New Zealand champions played only two games leading to the semi-finals.
Coach Albert Riera: ‘We have to be absolutely at our best’
Head coach Albert Riera told his club’s website: “We know what is required, we know what is needed to reach that far, we are very proud of what the players are achieving.
“The way they have been adjusting to all the situations they have to encounter, to the heat, to be playing every three days, that’s what we need to keep doing. That’s what is required to win the Champions League.
“We are going to be playing against a very good side. I personally believe it’s one of the best teams in the islands I have seen in many years.
“Ifira will be playing in front of their home crowd. We understand it’s going to be a full house. A lot of people will come to support their team, and we have to be absolutely at our best to win the game.
“The semi-final adds more pressure but we played in big games before. We know mentally how to face these games, and hopefully, we can have a good game, a good performance and hopefully we can convert that into a victory.”
Auckland City squad
1. Conor Tracey (Gk) 2. Mario Ilich, 3. Adam Mitchell,4. Christian Gray, 5. Michael Den Heijer, 6. Dan Morgan, 7. Cam Howieson (C) 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. Joseph Lee, 19. Liam Gillion, 22. Tong Zhou, 23. Matt Ellis, 24. Joe Wallis (Gk)
Coach: Albert Riera
Assistant Coach: Ivan Vicelich
Goalkeeper Coach: Enaut Zubikarai
Technical: Adria Casals
Physiotherapist: Matt Payne
Logistics Manager: Keith Coton
General Manager: Gordon Watson
Game to be played on Wednesday May 24, 2023
Auckland City v Ifira Black Bird
Port Vila, 12.30pm (NZT)