Cruz Azul have been regular contenders in the CONCACAF Champions League since the format of the competition was changed in 2008, reaching three of the six finals held since then. Luck deserted them in their first two final appearances, however. Beaten over two legs by Atlante in the 2009 decider, the men from Mexico City fell again in the following year’s final, when Pachuca accounted for them on away goals.
It has been a case of third time lucky for La Máquina Celeste this year, one in which they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first season in the Mexican top flight by downing Toluca to earn a place at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014. Battle-hardened performers on the international stage, both in the CONCACAF Champions League and the Copa Libertadores, Cruz Azul are dangerous opponents and have the ability to spring a surprise in Morocco. Their biggest asset is the core of players who featured prominently in Mexico’s gold-medal campaign at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. With Jose de Jesus Corona providing a commanding presence in goal, Marco Fabian pulling the strings in midfield and the shrewd Luis Fernando Tena watching on from the sidelines, the Mexicans will feel overwhlemed by no one.
“We should be thankful to God for these titles,” coach Tena said. “First, the national team won the Olympics and now this. We won this title because the players stood up and were counted. There’s been all this doubt and scepticism and all these bogeymen flying around, but we were so hungry and thirsty for glory and we’ve given people something to cheer about. We’re so happy, and this is a great responsibility for us. We’re going to prepare as well as we can because it’s a real pleasure to be able to play such strong teams and to represent the CONCACAF Zone.”