'Damage control' Kiwis goal at Club World Cup

TOKYO - While they should be safely back home by the time Manchester United arrive in Japan, New Zealand's Waitakere United insist they have "unfinished business" at the Club World Cup.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter will be hoping the Kiwi part-timers were not referring to their Christmas shopping after last year's fiasco.

In a horror start to the 2007 tournament, Waitakere were two goals down to Iran's Sepahan after just five minutes of the opening game, stretching the competition's credibility to breaking point.

The Oceania champions eventually lost 3-1 but an improved second-half performance failed to avert an avalanche of questions directed at Blatter and FIFA about the Club World Cup.

"We left Japan 12 months ago and felt we had unfinished business," Waitakere coach Chris Milicich told reporters on Monday.

"The reality is that we're never going to win this competition but we've worked our way back and that showcases what we're all about."

When Waitakere's collection of teachers, builders and salesmen face Adelaide United in this year's curtain raiser on Thursday, however, it could still be an exercise in damage control.

"We're amateur players and don't play at this level very often," admitted Waitakere captain Danny Hay. "It's a massive step up for us."


Barring a shock against Waitakere, Adelaide will get the opportunity to avenge their defeat by Japan's Gamba Osaka in this season's Asian Champions League final.

"It would be great to have another shot at Gamba," said Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar, whose side were crushed 5-0 on aggregate last month. "Everyone would love that."

However, Adelaide's hopes of overcoming Gamba in the quarter-finals to set up a fairytale match against European champions Manchester United are slim.

"Every team in our situation probably dream about playing Manchester United but we need to be realistic and keep our feet on the ground," said Vidmar.

"The dynamic of Australian football has changed since the country joined Asia (in 2006). We're playing at a higher level but there's an old saying that you take one game at a time.

"It's a boring saying but that's what we've got to do."

Ecuador's LDU, the champions of South America, face the winners of the first quarter-final between Mexico's Pachuca and Al Ahly of Egypt in the Dec. 11-21 tournament.

Favourites Manchester United are not involved until the second semi-final on Dec. 18. Waitakere's goals at the seven-team tournament are far more modest.

"We've had a year of 'What ifs?' and regret," said Hay. "To get back here and get the chance to prove ourselves is a massive, massive carrot for us."