The FIFA Club World Cup returns tonight, with this year’s competition taking place again in the United Arab Emirates.

Abu Dhabi based club Al Ain FC host New Zealand Football Championship side Team Wellington, who were the winners of the 2018 OFC Champions League.

Traditionally, teams from Oceania have struggled in this competition, however there is no doubt that the experience has a positive effect on the clubs.

There is a possibility that the Oceania team will play last season’s UEFA Champions League winner Real Madrid. However, for this to occur the Oceania club will need to win their first three matches, where they would then meet the Spanish giants in either the third-placed playoff or the final. It is very difficult to picture it happening, but we can only dare to dream.

The most recent Oceanian team to perform well in this tournament was back in 2014, when fellow New Zealand Football Championship side Auckland City reached the semi-final, going out 2-1 to Argentine club San Lorenzo after extra-time. Team Wellington may surprise us all and make a deep run in the competition.

Team Wellington were founded in 2004 and have won the New Zealand Football Championship twice. The 2018 OFC Champions League trophy caps off an impressive history in the short period of time.

Their squad is not necessarily filled with amateur players. There are a number of players with A-League and international experience.

Captain Justin Gulley and striker Hamish Watson both played for Wellington Phoenix in the A-League, with the latter scoring six goals in 33 matches.

Midfielder Henry Cameron played 25 matches for Blackpool in England and has five caps for the New Zealand national team.

Andy Bevin has experience playing for the Seattle Sounders in the MLS, while he also recently played for South Melbourne.

Jose Figueira is their boss – he is only their fourth manager in history. Figueira was a youth coach at MLS side New York Red Bulls and in addition to managing the New Zealand U-17 team, he is an assistant to manager Fritz Schmid for the New Zealand national team.

Team Wellington may not be the biggest side in the Club World Cup this season, however it is a chance for them to make an impression to the world and they will be a team of interest to watch in the tournament.

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Tim Sperliotis
tsperliotis@gmail.com