- Pachuca open their Club World Cup campaign against Wydad on 9 December
- This will be the club's fourth appearance at the competition
- "What's our ideal scenario? To always dominate," said their coach
They say that third time is the charm, but not for Diego Alonso. It was only at the fourth attempt that the Uruguayan finally earned the opportunity to contest the FIFA Club World Cup.
Alonso thrice fell agonisingly short of reaching the competition as a player, losing the finals of the UEFA Champions League with Valencia (2001), the CONCACAF Champions' Cup with Pumas (2005) and the Copa Libertadores with Penarol (2011). As a result, he is positively relishing the chance to experience this year's event on the touchline with Pachuca. "I had unfinished business [with the Club World Cup]," the attacker-turned-coach told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview.
Having waited so long, needless to say that Alonso will be extra keen for his side to make an impression in the UAE. How will they be approaching things? "First and foremost, we've got to have a solid base. The team have to be very clear-minded and have a really firm grasp of our game plan. That said, they'll also have to show adaptability in the face of the different styles of play we may come up against, while keeping our brand of football in mind."
"If everything goes according to plan, we'll be taking on three different opponents. We'll have to be able to adapt to their style of play in order to nullify it and make our strengths pay," added the 42-year-old.
Diego Alonso fact file:
First job as a coach: Bella Vista (Uruguay), 2011
Took over at Pachuca: 2015
Trophies: Clausura Tournament (2016), CONCACAF Champions League (2017)
Style of play: Attack-minded, enterprising passing game
— Diego Alonso (@AlonsoDT) November 28, 2017
(I've been nominated for the CONCACAF Coach of the Year award for the second year running. I'd like to thank my players, my backroom staff and all the Pachuca fans for their unconditional support!)
After two years at the helm of Pachuca, Alonso knows his charges inside out and is well aware of the areas in which they offer the biggest threat.
"I think the team can potentially excel in all four phases of play, albeit we're better in some than in others. We're very assured defensively and are really good at dictating when we go forward, but our biggest strength is switching from defence to attack. It also depends on whether the opposition let us have the ball or try to dominate themselves. We feel comfortable either way. What's our ideal scenario? To always dominate."
Generally, Alonso's philosophy involves taking one game at a time and avoiding thinking too far ahead. Nevertheless, after giving his view on his team's first opponents, Wydad Casablanca, he did not baulk at a question on Zinedine Zidane, instead lavishing praise on the man whose Real Madrid side Los Tuzos could only meet in the final.
"He's a person of real substance. He's adjusted really well to his new position; despite having been a global superstar [during his playing days], since moving into the dugout, he's been humble enough to take a back seat to the players and allow them to express themselves on the pitch," said Alonso, whose spell playing in Spain overlapped with the Frenchman's.
With such distinguished opposition potentially on the horizon, the Uruguayan knows Pachuca must make the most of the time remaining before the big kick-off in the UAE. "We plan to do specific preparation work over the next few days, since we won't be in action in Mexico," the tactician revealed.
"We've got players coming back from injury and others who are fatigued because of a gruelling domestic campaign; we want to nurse them back to full fitness so we're firing on all cylinders when the Club World Cup gets underway."