The eagerly-awaited first quarter-final at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008 in Tokyo pits CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly against Pachuca, who qualified for the intercontinental showdown in Japan by virtue of their triumph in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. It is the Mexicans’ second consecutive appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup, while Egypt’s most successful club side feature at the event for the third time in the last four years.
Al Ahly-Pachuca, Tokyo, Saturday 13 December, 13.45 (local)
The winners earn themselves a semi-final meeting with Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito. Pachuca will be doubly keen to atone for a below-par showing last year, when they started as favourites against Tunisians Etoile Sportive du Sahel but lost their quarter-final clash 1-0. A second premature exit to the African Champions League winners is a fate the Mexicans are determined to avoid this time round.
For their part, Al Ahly will be looking to build on their fine showing at the tournament in 2006, when they also overcame Mexican opposition on their way to a creditable third-place finish. Mohamed Aboutrika struck both goals in a 2-1 success against CF America. Al Ahly will have reason to celebrate whatever the result, as the meeting with Pachuca will be the Red Devils’ sixth match at the FIFA Club World Cup, another achievement for the record books to go with the Egyptian giants’ total of three appearances at the event.
8 – The number of Al Ahly stars set to take part in their third FIFA Club World Cup. Should Wael Gomaa and Mohamed Aboutrika feature against Pachuca, they will draw level with current record-holder Dida. The Brazilian shot-stopper has made a total of six appearances at the prestigious intercontinental match-up for Corinthians and AC Milan.
Pachuca defender Marco Perez turned 21 on 9 December, so victory over Al Ahly would represent a belated but highly welcome birthday gift.
"It’s a great honour to be taking part at the FIFA Club World Cup for the third time, and we’re very proud of it. Our goal is to represent Egyptian and African football to the best of our ability. We’re approaching every game as if it was a final, and this attitude could take us a long way. Obviously, there are no guarantees in football, but we’ll try our hardest to turn in a great performance and give our fans plenty to cheer." Manuel Jose, Al Ahly coach
"We’re overjoyed and proud about taking part at the FIFA Club World Cup again. We want to win our first match this time round and go as far as we can. Compared to last year, we’re more experienced, mentally stronger and better prepared. We’ve learnt from our mistakes at the last tournament, and we’ve come a long way since then." Miguel Calero, Pachuca keeper and captain