Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Football: City rivals face off for World Cup berth

Auckland City's Micah Lea'alafa (R) competes with Team Wellington's Anthony Hobbs (L). Photo / Getty Images
Auckland City's Micah Lea'alafa (R) competes with Team Wellington's Anthony Hobbs (L). Photo / Getty Images

Team Wellington and Auckland City FC will face off in the final of the Oceania Champions League today for the second successive year, where the winner will receive arguably the greatest prize in amateur football.

The O-League champion will receive a minimum of $659,000, which is split with New Zealand Football, and a spot alongside some of the best club teams in the world at the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan.

And as Auckland showed two years ago by coming third, there is potential to turn a team of part-timers into world-beating, multi-million makers. But first, the two ASB Premiership sides must conquer a cut-up North Harbour Stadium playing surface, the fiercest rivalry in the domestic game and a little bit of mental warfare.

Wellington beat Auckland 4-2 in the ASB Premiership final last month and both teams' coaches thoughtfully mulled over the effect that result has had on their preparation.

"For us we need to make more of a mental change than a structural change," said Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx.

"In the ASB final, I don't think we were very good in the way we moved the ball around for different reasons, and we have spoken about this and the players acknowledge what's happened. But mentally I don't think we were in the space we needed to be for a final. But you're always learning in life and I think we have learned our lesson and tomorrow we will compete a bit better."

Tribulietx said Wellington offer threats all over the park and singled out speedy winger Luis Corrales and ASB Premiership golden boot winner Ben Harris as key men to stop if Auckland are to attract the best players for the Club World Cup.

"The stakes involved in this game are very big, for any club, and it's probably the biggest game of the entire season," said Tribulietx.

It will be the third time in 12 months the two sides have met in a final after Auckland claimed last year's O-League title on penalties before Wellington won their first national league title in March.

"Mentally, winning the ASB final this year was very important for us," said Wellington coach Matt Calcott. "We had been pushing pretty hard over the years without quite getting there and that result mentally gave us the lift we needed."

Calcott highlighted Auckland's front three of Joao Moreira, who has returned from a one-game suspension, Emiliano Tade and Ryan De Vries as their main attacking weapons, but was confident his players were now familiar enough with their games.

- NZ Herald

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