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Auckland City to face Korean giants

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/01/2017

Perennial World Club Cup participants Auckland City FC will take on one of the giants of Asian football at the end of the month.

The Navy Blues have been invited to play in the Lunar New Year Cup in Hong Kong, becoming the first team from New Zealand to take part.

They have replaced Australia's Olyroos in the tournament, with the under-23 squad withdrawing at the last minute.

"We hope this opens doors not only for ourselves but other premiership clubs to participate in international club competitions," club chairman Ivan Vuksich said.

As part of the tournament, City will face Hong Kong-based hosts Kitchee FC and Thai champions SCG Muangthong United FC.

But of most interest will be the side's tussle with Korean giants FC Seoul, six-time K League champions and two-time Asian Champions League runners-up.

Seoul, who were 2016 K League champions, have a number of Korean internationals in their side including former Arsenal striker Park Chu-young and Kwak Tae-hwi.

Former Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder and Japanese international Yojiro Takahagi also serves as the side's midfield general.

As a result of their participation in the tournament, the Navy Blues will be forced to cram nine games into the next month.

They will also kick off their Oceania Champions League defence in March.

"The fixture list is tough but we accept that as the price for participating," Vuksich said.

Head coach Ramon Tribulietx, who has overseen the club's six successive Club World Cup tilts, says he is keen to see his side take on Seoul.

The Navy Blues were in Hong Kong just last month, playing a pre-Club World Cup friendly against Hong Kong Rangers.

They went on to lose in the Club World Cup first round to eventual finalists Kashima Antlers, 2-1.

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