ABU DHABI // Auckland City manager Paul Posa was full of praise for his gallant amateurs, and his backroom staff, after the Oceania champions ended Pro League side Al Ahli's Club World Cup aspirations at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium last night. Auckland seemed to have Al Ahli tactically worked out as soon the game began and, after seeing his team run out comfortable 2-0 winners, Posa was quick to pay tribute to Auckland's Catalan assistant coach Ramon Tribulietx.
"Obviously our team are quite ecstatic with the result," said Posa. "The boys have worked so hard for this and it was our night. The key for us was the homework we did on Al Ahli. "We knew exactly what to expect. Our assistant coach Tribulietx knew every single player inside out and even when we saw their teamsheet we knew how they were going to play, the shape they were going to play. He knew everything about them.
"He's done the hard yards behind the scenes and deserves a lot of credit here. We knew how they would play and had a system in place to counter that and we worked very, very hard." Auckland's first goal was scored right on half-time through Adam Dickinson while Chad Coombes wrapped up the game after 67 minutes with a magnificent long- range effort. Posa said: "Coombes filled in at right-back, he would have played up front. But I'm very happy with the result. Chad's goal was class.
"If James Pritchett's back, right and fully fit, he will come into contention for a starting place - he is one of our most important players. It's a case of whether he has enough time. He's been instrumental in our success and he's an important player. Chad is just starting to blossom." Posa, who described Auckland as underdogs in the run-up to the Club World Cup opener, revealed he was always confident his side would turn training ground form into a match-winning display.
"We were not the favourites for this game, but the amount of work our team have put in and the high prestige we hold this tournament, I felt calm and confident," said Posa. "We could not have done anything better in the build-up - everything fell into place. I knew we would create opportunities and chances in the game because of the way we have been playing, training and moving the ball. It was just a case of finishing the chances. First of all it was getting the right structure and then finishing the chances we created."
Next for Auckland are Concacaf champions Atlante, of Mexico. And despite unexpectedly seeing off the hosts to reach the quarter-finals, Posa is well aware of the fresh task facing his tired troops. "I'm confident the boys will give a good performance," said Posa. "But if you look outside of Estudientes and Barcelona, I think Atlante are the best and most classy team in this tournament. "It couldn't be harder for us from here and I think they will be a class up from where we're at. But if we're organised, work hard and play really well again, then maybe we can upset their rhythm. I won't say we'll win - it's going to be a harder ask - but we'll go into it and give it our best shot. We have to believe we can pinch something out of the game."