WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The Club World Cup could not have come at a better time for Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx, with the Spaniard hoping a good performance in Japan from the Oceania champions could enhance his prospects of finding a job with a professional side.
Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand’s only professional team, are currently without a coach after Ernie Merrick unexpectedly resigned from the A-League club on Monday.
The 44-year-old Tribulietx, shortlisted for the vacant job at the Brisbane Roar last year, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for the Scot in Wellington.
Tribulietx only recommitted to amateurs Auckland in late July having been in talks with professional clubs in eastern Europe before deciding to return for one more season and another shot at the tournament in Japan.
Tribulietx has led the eight-time Oceania champions at five Club World Cups and the team, comprised of up-and-coming New Zealand players and journeymen former professionals, have often surprised the fully-professional sides at the tournament.
They finished third at the 2014 edition in Morocco, losing 2-1 to Argentina’s San Lorenzo in the semi-finals before beating Mexico’s Cruz Azul on penalties.
Tribulietx will be assisted by 40-year-old former New Zealand international Ivan Vicelich, who was still playing for Auckland until last year but was able to finally hang up his boots after the side built up some depth.
“We’ve had very good preparation. The squad Ramon and the club have put together is very strong and we’ve worked really hard over the past couple of months,” Vicelich said.
”Unfortunately there’s a couple of injuries in Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Mario Bilen that keep key players away from us.
“But the strength in our squad is good and we’ve got the players who can step up.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford