Soccer: City off to Japan to get first go at new goal line monitor

By Terry Maddaford

Ivan Vicelich (left) of Auckland City heads the ball as he jumps with Allan Pearce of Waitakere United (right). Photo / Sarah Ivey
Ivan Vicelich (left) of Auckland City heads the ball as he jumps with Allan Pearce of Waitakere United (right). Photo / Sarah Ivey

Auckland City will again be pathfinders when they play the opening match at December's Fifa Club World Cup in Japan.

Three years after they became the first team to play with the adidas Jabulani ball when they beat United Arab Emirates club Al Ahli 2-0 in the opening game of the 2009 Club World Cup - the ball was then the official ball of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - City will again be the guinea pigs when Fifa introduces goal-line technology at this year's tournament.

As Oceania champions, Auckland City will play the J-League champions in the tournament opener in Yokohama. City coach Ramon Tribulietx says it will be an interesting innovation but he is still keen to find out more.

"Any technology which can be implemented to get the decisions right is welcome," said Tribulietx. "As long as there is no break in the continuity of the game I'm sure it will be welcome. We had an instance last year when Ivan Vicelich had a header which no one was really sure whether or not it crossed the line."

As yet there has been no decision on whether the players or the referee will be able to ask for a review or how many challenges will be allowed.

"I am going to Japan in two weeks and I will be seeking clarification on just how it is going to be implemented. I think it is a positive."

City's opponent will not be known until December 1, when the 34-match J-League season ends. Three teams, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Vegalta Sendai and Urawa Reds, are in the top three spots after 25 rounds. Kashiwa Reysol, who beat City 2-0 in last year's opener, are eight points back in sixth place.

Auckland City (Oceania), Chelsea (Europe), Mexico's Monterrey (Concacaf) and first-time Copa Libertadores champions Corinthians Paulista (South America) have already qualified. They will be joined by the Asian and African champions (to be found on November 9 and 10 respectively) and the J-League winner in the seven-team tournament.

Three Saudi Arabian clubs and one each from South Korea, China, Iran, Uzbekistan and Australia (Adelaide United) are through to the second leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-finals.

If City can repeat their 2009 effort when they beat UAE club Al Ahli 2-0 to progress, they will meet the Asian, African or Concacaf winner, that team to be decided by ballot.

Tribulietx will take an experienced squad to the tournament with only Chad Coombes, David Mulligan, Ian Hogg and Andreu Guerao from last season's team missing.

He will, however, have confirmed newcomer Chris Bale to bolster his squad after switching from Waitakere United in the off-season. Promising midfielder Jason Hicks is also set to join City from Waikato FC to ensure a decent battle for a midfield spot.

Before going to Japan, City will have pre-season warm-up games against a Refugees team tomorrow and possibly another against Waikato FC. Plans for two games against the Northern All Stars have been scrapped as there will not be an all-star team this year.

The season-opening ASB Charity Cup game against Waitakere will be played on October 28. City will play the first four rounds of the ASB Premiership before heading away.

- NZ Herald

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