Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx believes the only way to
become truly competitive at the Fifa Club World Cup is to
become a professional club, even though that is an unlikely
scenario within the current context of New Zealand football.
As the team flew out of Japan on Friday afternoon after a
narrow 1-0 loss to J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima,
Tribulietx admitted the gulf in class was difficult to
Auckland City enjoyed an extended build-up in Japan -
including a match against a local second division team - and
have lived as professionals for the past ten days, but
ultimately that wasn't enough.
"I don't think anyone can understand how big a step this is -
you can only understand if you are part of it," said
Tribulietx. "It's a huge step - these guys are full time and
they are technically very good, their touches are very sharp.
It's very hard, unless you become professional we are going
to be hanging on. We will be hanging on and competing but it
will be very hard to be on an even level with these
The New Zealand side held their own for long periods of the
match despite Hiroshima creating several chances and were
only undone by a world class goal in the 66th minute.
Receiving the ball around 25 yards from goal, midfielder
Toshihiro Aoyama smashed a bullet like shot that flew up
before dipping violently into the net. Even the Japanese
media were stunned by the quality of the strike, quizzing
Aoyama post match to find out how he had managed such a shot
without imparting spin on the ball.
"Their goal was top class," admitted Tribulietx. "Actually
when it took off I thought it was going over but suddenly it
dipped and went into the top corner. You can't do much about
From that moment the game noticeably opened up. Auckland City
pushed forward in search of an equaliser - and created a
couple of chances in the final stages - though Hiroshima
although missed some gilt edged opportunities to kill the
"We compete for 60-65 minutes until they scored an
unbelievable goal," said Tribulietx. "After that we still got
back up - they dropped off a bit and we had two or three
chances. [Adam] Dickinson had an unbelievable chance but
unfortunately he didn't put it away. You end up with a
bittersweet feeling but I was proud of the way we didn't
surrender; it could have been three or four more but we kept
Substitutes Luis Corrales and Emiliano Tade had a noticeable
impact when they came on but Tribulietx defended his decision
to not use them earlier, especially with Manel Exposito
producing a fairly subdued display on the left hand side of a
three pronged forward line.
"We had to be very careful," said Tribulietx. "If you go out
too attacking against a team like Hiroshima you could end up
going home with six or seven goals against you. We had to try
and stay in the game and make the most of any chances that
came our way."
- By Michael Burgess of the Herald on Sunday in