Atlante wary of Auckland threat

ABU DHABI - Atlante have prepared to counter Auckland City's more English game with their Latin football when the teams meet in Saturday's Club World Cup quarter-final, coach Jose Guadalupe Cruz said on Friday.

"Their height is a factor we have had in consideration since the draw for the tournament. They are physically imposing, strong in the air," Cruz told a news conference at the match venue, the 45,000-capacity Zayed Sports City stadium.

"That's one of their main virtues. In the (pre-season) Peace Cup in Spain we faced a team, barring the obvious differences, that play a similar game, Aston Villa," he said.

"Dead ball situations are one option they have to hurt us," said Cruz. "We must avoid fouls near our area and giving away corners."

CONCACAF champions Atlante have not played a competitive match for almost a month since failing to reach the knockout phase of Mexico's Apertura championship but Meza said they had trained to make up for that.

"You can see it as a two-edged sword. We have taken advantage of our time to the maximum, giving the World Cup the importance it deserves," he said.

"Tomorrow we won't have any excuses for a poor match. We've got a sufficiently mature team emotionally to know how to make the most of a moment that does not come round often."

Cruz added that Atlante are not thinking beyond Saturday's match despite overwhelming odds to reach a semi-final against tournament favourites Barcelona.

 

SELECTION POSER

"We will try to play our football, with a lot of possession, moving positions constantly, using the width of the pitch and not get bogged down in frontal kicks ahead," said the 42-year-old, who has been in charge of Atlante for almost three years.

Amateur team Auckland City, the Oceania champions, caused an upset by beating host team Al Ahli 2-0 in the tournament's opening match, a quarter-final play-off, on Wednesday.

Having lost both their matches at the 2006 tournament in Japan, their determination to do better in Abu Dhabi saw them make the most of their scoring chances against the profligate United Arab Emirates champions.

Auckland coach Paul Posa had to make a last-minute alteration to his team that paid off when full back James Pritchett suffered a hamstring injury.

Midfielder Chad Coombes stood in as a makeshift defender yet scored a spectacular second goal to make sure of victory, but Posa may still want key defender Pritchett in the side against Atlante if he is fit.

"James Pritchett is very much an important player for us. It's a race against time but if he's back and right, then he'll come back into contention for a starting place. He's been an instrumental part of our success," he was quoted as saying by NZ Football.