Aside from his cool, composed defending, Ricardo Osorio brings a wealth of experience to the Monterrey line-up. A veteran of the last two FIFA World Cup™ finals and the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005, the 31-year old full-back is a central figure in Los Rayados’ bid for global domination at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011, a task he discussed with FIFA.com.
A decade of excellence
Osorio has many years of top-flight football under his belt, having started his career with Cruz Azul in 2001. Making an instant impression, he was drafted into the Mexico team the following year, helping El Tri book a place at Germany 2006. Performing with distinction at the finals, which Mexico exited in the Round of 16, he earned a move to Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart, winning the German title with them in 2007 and appearing in two UEFA Champions Leagues.
With a track record like that, it is little wonder the Mexican has become a mainstay at Monterrey, the club he joined last year. His experience of the big occasion will no doubt prove invaluable as they take on the world’s best in the Far East.
“Every game’s a final in short competitions like this,” said Osorio. “With every match you win you step up a level and play another final that’s even more important than the last. That means you’ve got to concentrate and keep your focus at all times. If you don’t, then it could be goodbye.”
Monterrey make their Japan 2011 debut on Sunday against home favourites Kashiwa Reysol, with a semi-final against Santos waiting for the winners, a potential outcome that excites the Mexican international: “We watched them beat Penarol in the Copa Libertadores. They’re a typical Brazilian team and they’ve got some great players too in Neymar, Ganso and Elano, guys I’ve come up against with Mexico.
“There’s something else weighing in their favour, something not many people have picked up on,” he continued. “They don’t have the pressure of being favourites like Barcelona. That means they’ll be able to play their own game and at their own pace, which could well help them surprise a few people and take the trophy.”
A familiar face
The one game Osorio is dreaming of, however, is a potential final with Barcelona, having crossed swords with the classy Catalans on two occasions during his Stuttgart career. In 2007/08 the German outfit were drawn with Barça, then coached by Frank Rijkaard, in Group E of the Champions League, with the two sides meeting again in the last 16 two years later, by which time Josep Guardiola had taken up the reins.
“Both sides played really good football, making difficult things look really easy,” said Osorio, comparing the two versions of the Azulgrana machine he faced. “When Rijkaard was in charge the team was built around a few big-name players, but now it’s the homegrown players that form the basis of the side, and there are some positions where they don’t rely on big stars.”
Though Santos and Barcelona are the clear favourites for the big prize, Osorio believes absolutely anything can happen over the next few days in Japan, such is the competitive nature of the modern game.
“The gap between teams has narrowed an awful lot,” he said. “In the past the big teams would put four or five past the smaller sides, but it’s not so easy for them to do that now because of the advances that even little teams have made in fitness and tactical discipline.”
Given that scenario, Osorio believes Monterrey have good reason to think big in Japan: “It’s wide open and anyone can win it. Obviously Barcelona have got a great chance, but I think the less fancied sides like us can take everyone by surprise and win the title. We’re thinking about nothing else, I can tell you.”