Sadly, there will be no repeat of 2014’s giant killing run when Auckland City finished third in the World Club Championship. Instead the Kiwi team will be leaving Japan after being beaten by Kashima Antlers in the quarter final play off of this year’s event.
The fact that the World Club Championship now encompasses the winners of each confederation’s equivalent of the Champion League may be derided by some of the bigger nations in Europe but for teams from countries like New Zealand the expanded format provides not only a chance to play against some of the best in the world but also a much needed cash boost. Now that Auckland City have been eliminated they will turn their attentions to the domestic league and qualifying for next season’s Oceania Champions league.
However, whilst they must still be considered favourites, it may not be as straightforward for Ramon Tribulietx’s men. Last year’s winners, Team Wellington, will no doubt be in the mix as will Waitakere United and probably this season’s surprise package, new comers Eastern Suburbs. Add Auckland City to these three and it is hard to see how any of the other teams are going to break into the top four and the end of season play-offs.
Which leads me to Canterbury United.
Early on I nailed my colours to the Tasman United mas but I want to the South Island punching at and above its wait in the Stirling Sports Premiership and that means, for this season at least, getting behind the Dragons. Yet despite a good start to the season, their season may be almost over before Santa arrives to hand out the present. After losing back-to-back to Hamilton and Waitakere they only just managed to salvage a draw against Hawke’s Bay and now face two daunting fixtures against Team Wellington and the top of the table, Eastern Suburbs.
Last year Canterbury pushed Auckland City all the way in the semi-final and this season should have been the one where they pushed on but, as so often happens in football, there is a touch of second season syndrome affecting the team, most notably one of last season’s stand out performers Andre de Jong. As Claudio Ranieri is finding out at Leicester football coaches today are true students of the game and if a team is successful they will always be thinking of ways to nullify their opponent’s and I am afraid to see Willy Gerdsen’s team simply haven’t progressed from last season.
But more importantly the players haven’t delivered this season, especially in attack. These days it is the managers who always seem to be the first to be blamed even though nine times out of ten it is the players who are failing to perform on the pitch. Canterbury United need to get their attacking players firing again and playing for each otherwise I may as well just throw myself completely behind Tasman and their bid to win the South Island mini league.