One of the most talented Mexican players of his generation, Braulio Luna has played 31 times for his national team and is a veteran of two FIFA World Cup™ finals: France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002.
Though his career took a downturn after the second of those world finals, the midfielder has since rediscovered his form, and even earned a recall to the Mexico side. Ultimately disappointed not to be included in the squad Javier Aguirre took to 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Luna now has the chance to make up for it at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010 with Club de Futbol Pachuca, the club he joined at the start of the season.
With the competition about to get under way, FIFA.com chatted exclusively to the Tuzos man about his resurgence, his club’s chances of success in Abu Dhabi and what the competition means to him.
FIFA.com: Braulio, you looked close to retiring a few years ago but now you’ve become an influential player again.
Braulio Luna: I had ten very difficult months at Veracruz and was only getting a game when the team was in trouble. That meant I wasn’t playing with the same rhythm or intensity as I normally would. I matured a lot that year and eventually played my part in the team avoiding relegation. Then I went to San Luis, where I had three really good years and got back into the national team as a result. For a little team San Luis achieved some big things, leading the league on several occasions, and I played for them in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana. Now here I am at Pachuca, a club that’s going through a transitional phase, with several young players looking to make names for themselves.
A lot of people thought you’d make the Mexico team for South Africa 2010. Do you see FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010 as a chance to prove a point?
I want to make the most of it for sure. Obviously it hurt to miss out on a place at South Africa. I was very excited about going and I thought I’d done enough with the national team and with my club to deserve a place. But Javier [Aguirre] and his technical staff decided not to take me and that was that. Sometimes football can be tough, but there’s always another big opportunity waiting just around the corner, and that opportunity is the Club World Cup.
What does the FIFA Club World Cup mean to you?
It’s very important to my career. I’m going there to win it and to do my very best for my club and for Mexico of course.
Mexican teams have not had much success in the competition yet. Why do you think that is?
It goes without saying that the quality of the opposition has something to do with that, but my feeling is that we haven’t been tough enough mentally. We’ve trained extremely hard for this event and we’ve been playing well, but when we get out on the pitch we need to show that extra mental resolve.
This is Pachuca’s third FIFA Club World Cup appearance and your first. What have your team-mates told you about their previous experiences in the competition?
They said it’s unique and that you have to make the most of it. I’ve been playing for many years now and I want to win the cup. That’s all I’m focusing on because this is a very important global competition.
To reach a possible final against favourites Inter Milan, Pachuca will have to beat TP Mazembe Englebert in their opening game and then SC Internacional do Porto Alegre in the semi-finals. Is that the ideal route for you, taking on a supposedly weaker team and then the strongest sides?
As far we’re concerned there are no weak teams. The toughest side is the one we’re up against on the pitch so we need to dig deep, stay focused, play with intensity and try to win anyway we can. We need to use our heads and be clever. It’s important to play good football, get the tactics right and be in shape, but we can’t let anyone get the better of us on a mental level.
Pachuca became the first side to win a CONMEBOL competition when they lifted the Copa Sudamericana. Do you think that success will stand you in good stead for UAE 2010?
Our opponents know who they’re up against. Over the last few years Pachuca have been the most successful side in Mexico along with Toluca. Even though the Copa Sudamericana was a while ago, we’ve carried on winning things, so they know Pachuca are no pushovers. I think we’ll be in pretty good shape for the competition.
So it’s going to be a case of third time lucky for Pachuca?
I’m convinced it will be.