Auckland City, with four Englishmen in their ranks, stunned football fans across the globe as they finished third in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The tournament, which sees the winner of each continent’s premier competition take on each other, was held in Morocco from the 10th to the 20th December.
Auckland qualified as winners of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Champions League and were involved in the first match of the tournament as they took on the host country’s entrant Moghreb Tétouan. The winner would qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The match went all the way to penalties and it was the New Zealand side who held their nerve, winning 4-3 on spot-kicks. Both Englishmen who featured, John Irving and Darren White, were successful converting from the spot. See the highlights here.
In the next round, Auckland were pitted against Africa’s champions, Algerian side ES Sétif.
In another tight encounter, it was Irving who was the hero, with his goal in the 52nd minute securing a 1-0 win, and passage to the semi finals. Darren White also featured as a late substitute. See the goal here.
San Lorenzo were next up for Auckland, and they stood between them and a place in the final against Real Madrid.
The South American champions were a significant jump in quality compared to the two sides Oceania’s champions had already defeated but they battled well, taking the game to extra time following a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
However, the professional side were to be a step too far for Auckland, as San Lorenzo secured a 2-1 victory with a goal in the first half of extra time. Again, Irving started and Sam Burfoot also featured for the first time. See the highlights here.
Despite the loss, there was still one more game for Auckland to play, as they took on North America’s top club Cruz Azul in the 3/4 playoff.
The Mexican side has just been defeated by Real Madrid 4-0 in the semi-finals so were looking to end their tournament on a high.
However, Irving, White, Burfoot and co. made sure it would be them who would go home happiest as a 4-2 win in their second penalty shoot-out of the tournament secured them third place after a 1-1 draw in normal time. See the highlights here.
English goalkeeper Louie Caunter was on the bench for all the games.
For a semi-professional side, Auckland did themselves and the Oceania confederation proud, beating side’s with vastly superior budgets and reputations.
This year was the sixth time Auckland had ever played in the FIFA Club World Cup and their third place finish was by far their best ever result.