Not even the most pessimistic of Pachuca fans can have imagined their team's participation at Japan 2007 would be so brief. Tipped by many pre-tournament to push Boca Juniors hard for a place in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007, a 1-0 quarter-final reverse at the hands of Etoile Sportive du Sahel leaves the CONCACAF champions preparing for the long journey home
The looks on the faces of the Pachuca players as they left the dressing rooms said it all. Among the most disappointed was the Argentinian Christian Gimenez, who came close to scoring on a couple of occasions. "This really hurts. We prepared superbly for this game and deserved so much more from it. It was all going well until... I don't know what to say, I just feel terrible. We lost but now have to pick ourselves up. I'm proud of my team-mates because they showed self respect and did all they could to win. We just couldn't do it," he told FIFA.com.
The winning goal, a Moussa Narry's strike five minutes from time, left the Tozos devastated, as captain and goalkeeper Miguel Calero explained. "It was a very pacy shot that took a deflection off my team-mate (Leonardo Lopez). I don't even know if I could have reached it or not. It hurts so bad to go out in that fashion, and to a team more concerned with defending than attacking. We put in so much work to get here, but unfortunately it's all ended very quickly."
Determined to return
Despite the painful defeat, this February Pachuca begin the defence of their continental title with the aim of returning to Japan again next year. Of course, for that to happen, they'll have to learn the lessons from the Etoile defeat and come back mentally renewed after what has been an arduous season. "It's not an excuse, but this team have played 90 games in just under 17 months. It's normal to be mentally exhausted after winning so much. Perhaps we didn't play a great game, but we were the better side and deserved to win. Etoile scored and we didn't, so they're justified winners, but on the balance of play, we were superior," Calero insisted.
For his part, Damian Alvarez was also rueing his side's early exit and the lost opportunity to face Boca Juniors, a club he knows all about having started out with the Xeneizes' archrivals, River Plate. "This defeat really hurts because it wasn't part of any of our plans. We prepared to be here for the whole tournament, and now it's over after just 90 minutes. What we want to do now is come back here as soon as we can and put things right. Football gives you the chance of revenge, so, make no mistake, we'll be going in search of that come February."
So where does this defeat leave Pachuca? For veteran captain Calero, it is time to start over again: "This is a young squad which, despite all its success, still has a lot to give. Now, though, we have to clear our heads and come back refreshed and ready to battle for a place here again next year. It's not the end of an era, not by any means. But, of course, it hurts to have lost, particularly for those fans who came over with us. We realise we've had our share of good experiences, and that [today] it was our turn to have a bad one. However, we have what it takes to turn it around again."