If there is one coach who knows modern day Mexican football inside out, it would have to be Luis Fernando Tena. Over the last 11 seasons, he has been at the helm of no fewer than six sides from the country's first division, enjoying particular success with Cruz Azul and Morelia.
Now, of course, Luis Fernando occupies the America hot seat, where he is preparing for the biggest test of his managerial career - the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006. Tena's brother Alfredo, the legendary America defender, will act as his assistant.
The Mexican tactician firmly believes there are no easy games these days, even less so in a tournament as tough as the FIFA Club World Cup. "It's a very difficult competition, and we'll have to carefully analyse each rival as they come. We know how Barcelona play, as we faced them in August in a match that, generally speaking, we did well in. However, we still have a lot of things to analyse," says Tena, who admits the Spanish champions will be the team to beat in December in Japan.
El Flaco (the Thin One), as Tena is known at the club, is also aware that America might have to overcome the considerable threat of Brazil's Internacional, a team Tena insists he has been watching closely. "We've studied videos of Inter's Libertadores games, and we're informed of general developments at the club. As we get nearer to December, we'll send people there to monitor them more closely."
Tena's achievements have seen his name appear in the Mexican press recently as a possible candidate to coach the national team. Regardless of who gets the nod from the country's federation, the coach insists the only thing on his mind right now is Japan 2006.
Focused on the job in hand and determined to make the most of this great opportunity, Tena will have all his big guns with him in Asia, where he will be hoping the blend of youth and experience that has served him so well in the league will deliver on the world stage.
"In general, we're a very strong outfit. We have extremely talented and influential players, a very experienced and well-coordinated defence and a very good keeper. Up front, we have six players of a very high level, and also good options if we need to make changes on the day."
Experience the key
As the coach points out, the team will be leaning heavily on the more experienced members of the squad, people like striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who has represented the national team on more than 80 occasions, and former Argentina international Claudio Lopez, who won a host of admirers during his time with Spanish side Valencia and Italy's Lazio. Another attacking option, should young legs be required, is 21-year-old Juan Carlos Mosqueda, who has been a revelation for the Azulcrema so far this season.
"We have some very dynamic people, which is very important at international level. We need to make the most of our front men and create plenty of chances. We'll have to see how the players are individually when we get there. On the whole, the squad is very strong, especially in attack," Tena insists.
Also contributing to America's solidity are younger members of the squad like goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and defender Jose Antonio 'El Gringo' Castro, both of whom are products of the club's youth academy.
Yet no matter how capable the group, Tena also realises that in football anything can happen, and that it is important to be ready for all eventualities: "In football, you can envisage a game, but it can turn out to be completely different. You just have to prepare yourself as best you can and be ready to take on all-comers. Teams today are all very tough and there are no easy games, even less so at a world championship.