CF Monterrey
© AFP

The past
CF Monterrey touched down at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012 determined to improve on their debut showing in 2011, when they fell short of their own expectations by coming fifth. Having done so by reaching the semi-finals, where they met English side Chelsea, a few careless minutes just after the break allowed the then UEFA Champions League holders to race into a 3-0 lead – eventually reduced to 3-1 – and prevent Los Rayados from being the first CONCACAF side to reach the competition’s final. Even so, the Mexican club had achieved their stated minimum goal and they went on to finish third, thus equalling the best-ever performance of a team from the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone at the tournament.

The present
Los Rayados are all set to be CONCACAF’s representatives at the global showpiece for a third year in a row, a statistic which should mean they have enough experience to handle a tournament where every error can prove fatal. Additional strong points in their favour are Chile forward Humberto Suazo, and a cohesive team of players that know each other’s games inside out.

The future
Despite ending their long-time relationship with Victor Vucetich, who coached the team for nearly four years, Monterrey hired Jose Guadalupe Cruz in late August with the goal of becoming the first team from the CONCACAF region to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. "I agreed to come to Monterrey because it is a serious team which in recent years has won practically everything," he said. "We have a new opportunity and the challenge of going to a Club World Cup."

Facts and figures
Formers stars
Francisco Javier Cruz (1984-88, 1999), Mario Mota ‘Bahía’ (1984-88), Misael Espinoza (1984-93), Jesus Arellano (1992-2011), Antonio de Nigris (1995-02), Guillermo Franco (2002-05), Luis Ernesto Perez (2003-2012), Humberto Suazo (2007-2009 / 2010-present).

Key players
Humberto Suazo (forward), Cesar Delgado (forward), Walter Ayovi (defender), Jonathan Orozco (goalkeeper).

Qualifying stats
Monterrey topped Group 7 in the CONCACAF Champions League in impeccable style, scoring 15 goals and conceding none while winning all four games. After overcoming surprise packages Xelaju 4-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals and LA Galaxy 3-1 in the semis, Los Rayados came up against countrymen Santos in a repeat of the 2012 title decider. Following a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Monterrey, Los Regiomontanos fired three late goals to clinch an epic 4-2 comeback win in Torreon.

The numbers game
42 – The number of years that have passed since a team won three consecutive CONCACAF Champions League crowns, with Mexico’s Cruz Azul the last to achieve the feat in 1969-1971. What is more, Monterrey are the first team to do so in the competition’s current format.