Edgar Benitez was a top-flight debutant at 17 for Paraguay’s Libertad back in 2005, but it was a prolific loan spell at modest outfit Sol de America three years later that proved the making of him. Top scorer in the 2008 Clausura, his performances caught the eye of Mexican powerhouses Club de Futbol Pachuca, who signed the emerging front-runner in December of that year just prior to the club’s second consecutive appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup.
Though Benitez was not part of Los Tuzos’ run to fourth place in Japan, his new team’s involvement in the global showpiece only served to highlight how far the young striker had come. Indeed, at just 21, the player had joined one of Latin America’s most successful clubs of recent times. Now a fixture in the Pachuca starting XI, Benitez and his team-mates are currently preparing for another assault on the FIFA Club World Cup, with the Paraguay international making time for an exclusive interview with FIFA.com ahead of the trip to Abu Dhabi.
Doubling up for 2010
“Taking part in the Club World Cup is really special and very important for any player,” began Benitez. “It’s always a dream to compete in a World Cup and it’s now coming true for us. Personally, I’m really happy about this, so let’s hope we can go and have a good tournament.”
And if competing at one FIFA competition is special, taking part in two in the same year is a feat few professionals achieve. Benitez and his Pachuca team-mates Paul Aguilar and Herculez Gomez are in line to do just that, however, with the trio having appeared for Paraguay, Mexico and USA respectively at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
“It’s not something you can put into words. Playing at two World Cups in the same year means a lot to me and makes me very happy,” said el Pájaro (the Bird), who admitted to having turned down transfer offers in favour of representing Los Tuzos at UAE 2010. “We’ve had a number of opportunities to leave the club but, as we told the board at the time, we want to play at this World Cup and make the most of this competition."
Ahead of Pachuca’s third trip to a FIFA Club World Cup, competition first-timer Benitez has been keen to learn everything he can from his more experienced colleagues. “The lads who’ve already been part of this tournament tell me it’s a great experience, though very painful when you lose a game. But they also say we’ve got a much stronger, more united squad this time and we’re hoping to prove that over there.”
That togetherness could prove vital, given the pressure on Pachuca to become the first Mexican side since Necaxa at Brazil 2000 to claim a place on the podium. Los Tuzos fell at the quarter-final hurdle in 2007, while CF America, Pachuca again and Atlante Futbol Club ended the competition in fourth spot in 2006, 2008 and 2009 respectively.
“It’s true, every time a Mexican club goes to a Club World Cup things start to go wrong,” said Benitez, whose team kick off their UAE 2010 bid on 10 December against CAF Champions League victors TP Mazembe Englebert. The winner of that quarter-final will then meet Copa Libertadores winners SC Internacional do Porto Alegre for a place in the final.
“It’s an ideal route (to the final). We’re all really hoping that we can win our first game and take on Brazilian side Inter, who play very good football,” said the Albirroja forward, who turned 23 on 8 November. “We’d then give it our best shot against them because we’re dreaming of a meeting with the European champions (F.C. Internazionale Milano). But we have to take things one step at time, because we know our African opponents are a very good side too.”
So, will UAE 2010 prove to be a case of third-time lucky for Pachuca? “That’s our goal but we know we’ve got very tough opponents blocking our path. We’ll just take things one step at a time, try to have a good tournament and leave a good impression of our club.”