TP Mazembe will be hoping to readdress Africa's poor record in the FIFA Club World Cup when they face Mexican outfit Pachuca in the United Arab Emirates this week. Mazembe, from Lubumbashi in Congo DR, disappointed in the competition last year, losing to Pohang Steelers of Korea Republic and Auckland City of New Zealand.
Finishing second-last in Abu Dhabi in 2009 was a major disappoint for the African champions, particularly after then-coach Diego Garzitto had claimed that his squad could lift the trophy despite the presence of Barcelona.
African clubs have won just three and drawn one of 15 matches in the FIFA Club World Cup, scoring 19 goals and conceding 28. Garzitto has made way for Senegal-born successor Lamine N'Diaye, and this year the new boss is adopting a more realistic approach ahead of a Friday showdown with the Central and North American champions.
"Many of my team went to Abu Dhabi last year and desperately want to improve on those results," N'Diaye said ahead of the team flying out to the Middle East. "They let down themselves, the Congolese people and all of Africa and each one wants to show the world just how skilful and good they really are. We want to win at least one game this time."
However, N'Diaye does worries about the physical and mental state of a team, having already played 60-plus matches at domestic and international level this year, 14 of those needed to retain the CAF Champions League title. Last year, Les Corbeaux had to rely on the away-goal rule to pip Heartland of Nigeria for the trophy, but cantered to a 6-1 aggregate victory over Esperance of Tunisia last month.
"We have done our research on the Mexicans and believe we know them well. They have the edge over us in experience as this will be their third appearance in the competition," admitted N'Diaye.
Pachuca have had mixed luck against African opposition, losing 1-0 to Etoile Sahel of Tunisia in 2007 and overcoming a two-goal deficit to defeat Al Ahly of Egypt 4-2 after extra time the following year.
Mazembe will bank heavily on midfielder Dioko Kaluyituka - second highest scorer in the 2010 African Champions League with seven goals - and Zambian striker Given Singuluma to unlock the Mexican defence. And 34-year-old goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba, famous for bouncing along the ground on his bottom in celebration, wants to redeem his image after being red carded against Auckland.