Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

O-League: 2010-11 Season Preview

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on October 20, 2010
Hekari United

Hekari United are the defending champions

This weekend sees the beginning of a new campaign in Oceania’s elite football competition, the O-League. Having established itself as a regular feature of the football calendar since it was rebranded with a new format in 2007, the anticipation ahead of this tournament is growing mainly because of last season’s shock victory of Papua New Guinea’s PKR Hekari United FC. They beat Waitakere United 4-2 on aggregate in the 2009-10 final to put a halt to the domination from New Zealand clubs and, thus, qualify for the 2010 Club World Cup which takes place in Abu Dhabi for the second successive year in December. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks ahead to this year’s edition.

Last season’s surprise champions PKR Hekari United will be expecting perennial challengers Auckland City and Waitakere United to come back stronger in order to take the title from their grasp. The two Kiwi clubs have, once again, been drawn in the same group and will be fighting it out to reach another final. The eight teams in the competition have been drawn into two groups of four with the top team from each group going to next year’s two-legged final in April. Here is a quick guide to the eight teams:

GROUP A

HEKARI UNITED (Papua New Guinea)

Champions of their domestic league for the last four seasons, Hekari (formerly Souths) United made the most of their talents in order to claim a maiden O-League triumph last season having defeated Waitakere United. With new arrival Henry Fa’arodo United will be expected to score plenty of the goals again and the defending champions will hope to reach a second successive final seeing as they avoided the two New Zealand clubs in the draw.

KOLOALE FC (Solomon Islands)

National team striker Benjamin Totori has returned to his homeland following a five year stint at New Zealanders Waitakere United and he will hope that his goalscoring prowess can fire his team to a second O-League final. On the other side of the coin the loss of Henry Fa’arodo to Hekari United will be a blow to the side. The club reached the 2008-09 final in their first ever appearance in the competition but suffered at the hands of Auckland City by a comprehensive 9-4 aggregate scoreline and will hope to go one better this time around.

LAUTOKA FC (Fiji)

Lautoka FC have never reached the final of this tournament and would dearly like to become the third Fijian side to do so after their arch-rivals Ba FC reached the 2007 O-League final and Nadi FC reached the final in the tournament’s previous guise of the Oceania Clubs Championship in 1999. Both of their compatriots went on to lose their respective finals so Lautoka FC would be looking to make history should they make it all the way to the final in April.

AMICAL FC (Vanuatu)

At long last!! Tafea FC’s long reign as domestic champions is finally over (not that I’m biased against Tafea I hasten to add). After winning the Premia Divisen championship in 2010 Amical FC put an end to Tafea’s fifteen year reign at the helm and gave themselves the opportunity of playing O-League football for the first time. The club have also recruited Alick Maemae (many thanks to “Diego”, a Stoppage Time reader who informed me of this move as I had reported differently earlier) and have ambitions to make a mark on this tournament despite their inexperience.

GROUP B

WAITAKERE UNITED (New Zealand)

Last season’s defeated finalists and two-time winners of the competition in 2007 and 2008, Waitakere United are determined to reach the final of this tournament again but will have to do so without prolific striker Benjamin Totori who has gone back to the Solomon Islands. Nonetheless much of last season’s squad remains and, with a few adjustments throughout the season, player-manager Neil Emblem’s side are well-placed to make a fight on two fronts again this season.

AUCKLAND CITY (New Zealand)

Auckland City, another two-time champion having won the title in the 2006 and 2008-09 seasons, have big ambitions to get back to the top following a disappointing 2009-10 campaign. They lost out to arch-rivals Waitakere United in the group stages of this tournament last season and also saw their arch-rivals lift the domestic championship too. Now Auckland City will want to get their own back with a new coaching team of Aaron McFarland and Ramon Tribulietx plus the addition of All Whites player David Mulligan to an already large playing squad.

AS MAGENTA (New Caledonia)

AS Magenta has been a regular participant in the O-League thanks to their prolific run of success in their national championship in the last decade. With six titles to their name AS Magenta also came close to winning this competition in 2004-05 where they lost to Australians Sydney FC in the final. Will probably be fighting it out with AS Tefana to avoid the wooden spoon in Group B. 

AS TEFANA (French Polynesia)

Having won the Tahitian championship for only the second time in their history in 2010 AS Tefana will compete in the O-League for the first time and are not expected to challenge the New Zealand clubs for the top spot which would guarantee a place in the tournament final. At least they can gain some much needed experience of international competition and will want to reach a minimum of third place in the group.

Matchday 1 Fixtures

Group A: Hekari United v Amical FC

Koloale FC v Lautoka FC

Group B: Auckland City v AS Magenta

Waitakere United v AS Tefana

FIFA Club World Cup preview

FIFA Club World Cup

Seven teams will fight it out in the UAE for the trophy

Love it or loathe it the FIFA Club World Cup is going to remain a staple part of the football calendar. To some observers it’s a chance to win a trophy and add more prestige to their club. To some others it’s a competition that turns up in the middle of a long hard season, getting in the way of domestic progress. Either way there will be seven teams in the United Arab Emirates from December 9-19 who will be giving everything to win the cup. Here is Stoppage Time’s guide to the participants:

FC BARCELONA – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

FC Barcelona became European champions for the third time in May after beating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome. It is surprising that a massive club such as “Barça” has never won the FIFA Club World Cup or its predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup. After twice being crowned European champions in 1992 and 2006 the Catalans have been defeated by Brazilian clubs in their attempts to be crowned the world’s best. In 1992 a São Paulo side inspired by Rai beat Barça 2-1 and then, three years ago, Internacional scored a late goal to deny Barcelona again. This time the ‘Blaugrana’ hope to make it third time lucky in this tournament and add the FIFA Club World Cup to the other five trophies they’ve won under their coach Pep Guardiola.

ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA – COPA LIBERTADORES WINNERS 2009

Estudiantes won their fourth Copa Libertadores with a 2-1 victory over two legs against Brazilian side Cruzeiro. The Argentinian side had a mixed record in the Intercontinental Cup during their heyday in the late 1960s and early 70s. Their solo victory came in 1968 after a 2-1 aggregate win over Manchester United (before 1979 the champions of Europe and South America played home and away matches to win the cup). Their next two efforts, however, ended in failure; in 1969 Milan won 4-2 on aggregate and in 1970 Feyenoord Rotterdam claimed their only world title with a 3-2 aggregate win. Can Juan Sebastián Verón emulate his father Juan Ramón’s achievements and become a world champion with his boyhood club?

ATLANTE CF – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Mexican side secured their second CONCACAF Champions League title after an all-Mexican affair with Cruz Azul ended up 2-0 after a two-legged final. Atlante’s other title win was back in 1983 when they defeated Surinam’s Robinhood FC (yes, really!) 6-1 over two legs. Atlante’s Club World Cup campaign will kick-off at the quarter-final stage against either Al Ahli or Auckland City, who meet in the first match of the competition.

POHANG STEELERS – AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The three time Asian champions have not always dominated the domestic scene in South Korea but tend to thrive in Asian club competition. After previous successes in 1997 and 1998, Pohang Steelers won a third title this year by defeating Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Tokyo’s National Stadium. Pohang will play against TP Mazembe at the quarter-final stage, the winner of which faces Estudiantes in the semi-finals.

TP MAZEMBE – CAF AFRICAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Congolese side have been African champions on three occasions after their most recent success was decided on away goals against Nigerian team Heartlands FC. After the Nigerians won the first leg 2-1 at home, Mazembe won the second leg 1-0 to secure a passage to the Middle East. A meeting with Estudiantes de la Plata awaits if they can overcome Pohang Steelers in the quarter-final.

AUCKLAND CITY – OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The New Zealanders will be participating in the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time, after their previous appearance in 2006, following their 9-4 win over Soloman Islands’ club Koloale FC in the two-legged OFC Champions League final. In 2006 Auckland City lost in the opening play-off match to Al Ahly of Egypt 2-0. Can they avoid a repeat against a similarly named Al Ahli of UAE in this year’s tournament?

AL AHLI – UAE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2009

Representing the host country in this year’s tournament, Al Ahli have never been Asian champions but are the current UAE League champions after winning the title by one point from nearest challengers Al Jazira Club. Last season’s attempt at continental glory came to an end in the group phase of the AFC Champions League competition. Will meet Atlante CF in the quarter-final if they beat Auckland City in the play-off match.