Latin twist to first Tokyo semi
© AFP

The first semi-final at the FIFA Club World Cup 2008 is set to be an all Spanish-speaking affair, with Copa Libertadores winners Liga Deportivo Universitaria de Quito making their tournament bow against CONCACAF champions Pachuca, victors over Al Ahly of Egypt in an epic quarter-final here in Japan.

The game
Pachuca-Liga de Quito, Tokyo, Wednesday 17 December, 19.30 (local time)

The stakes
Nothing less than a place in the showpiece final will be the reward for one of these teams come the end of Wednesday's encounter. Ever since the inaugural edition of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, no team from outside Europe or South America has ever made it to the title decider. Buoyed by their thrilling 4-2 comeback success over African champions Al Ahly, the first time in tournament history that a team has come from two goals down to win, Pachuca of Mexico will be eyeing another first in Tokyo.

Up against them will be Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito, winners of this year's Copa Libertadores and the first Ecuadorian side to appear at the FIFA Club World Cup. Having beaten Mexican outfit America in the last four of the Libertadores, can they repeat the feat against Pachuca at Japan 2008? 

After his brace in the quarter-finals, another double for Pachuca's Argentinian attacker Christian Gimenez would take him beyond the likes of Mohamed Aboutrika, Nicolas Anelka, Romario and Washington - all of whom have scored three times at this level and jointly hold the tournament's top scorer laurel. However, in the opposing camp is well-travelled Ecuadorian front-man Agustin Delgado, who fired two goals at the competition in Brazil in 2000 during his spell with Mexican club Necaxa.

The stat
4 - No team has ever scored more than four times in a single match at the FIFA Club World Cup, and Pachuca are now one of only four sides to have hit that landmark tally. Will the team representing the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone be wearing their shooting boots once more in the semi-finals?

The birthday
Liga de Quito's Daniel Viteri turned 27 on 12 December, veteran striker Delgado will blow out 34 candles on 23 December and midfielder Edder Vaca's 23rd birthday is on Christmas Day. The celebrations would surely be that much sweeter if the Ecuadorian club can win the title on 21 December.

The words
"We can hardly wait to come up against the Copa Libertadores winners. We're going to go toe-to-toe with them and may the best team win! We never lose our self-belief and we never stop battling," Enrique Meza, Pachuca coach.

"We're taking things one step at a time. Pachuca are a tough team with some good individual players. If we stay focused and work hard then we'll win the game. Only then can we start dreaming about winning the final," Jose Francisco Cevallos, Liga de Quito goalkeeper.