Football: Auckland City revisit scene of past glory for FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco

COVID-19 has prevented 10-time Oceania champions Auckland City FC from contesting the last two FIFA Club World Cup tournaments, but this week, they'll return to the scene of their greatest-ever triumph.

Last time the event was held in Morocco, Ivan Vicelich was a player. Nine years later, he's part of the coaching set-up, but the memories of Auckland City's third-place finish remain as fresh as ever.

"Everytime I think about that, it gives me goosebumps," he told Newshub. "It was an incredible time.

"For a New Zealand team to get a medal at a FIFA tournament is incredible, to get bronze is unbelievable... just a magic time."

But the magic has worn off. Seventh placings at the 2015 and 2016 tournaments are the best Auckland City have managed since, while COVID complications have ruled them out of the last two events.

"It was obviously very disappointing, but something that wasn't in our hands, so there was nothing we could do about it," said manager Albert Riera. "Dwelling on those things never help."

The navy blues fly out Monday for a training camp at Barcelona.

"Everyone's in high spirits and looking fit," said defender Adam Bell. "We've had good numbers at training with our GPS units.

"We're up for it, we're ready to go and it will be a really good tournament for us."

They'll have a tough start in Morocco, up against African runners-up Al Ahly of Egypt.

Ivan Vicelich (right) named third-best player of the 2014 Club World Cup, behind Sergio Ramos (centre) and Cristiano Ronaldo (left)
Ivan Vicelich (right) named third-best player of the 2014 Club World Cup, behind Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo credit: Photosport

"We'll be playing against one of the biggest clubs in Africa and I think they've won the most trophies in the world," said Vicelich. "We're up against it, but the beauty of football - as we saw at the World Cup - is that upsets happen and late goals happen and a little bit of magic happens.

"That's what we need to progress."

They won't leave without their secret weapon.

"As the youngest, I've been forced into this role of taking care of our club mascot when we travel," said defender Adam Mitchell. "He's called Cam the Kiwi.

"I've got to take him everywhere, every training on the bus and on the plane, and make sure he's looked after well."

With backing from Cam the Kiwi, hopefully they can repeat their 2014 heroics in 2023.