Having finished a lowly sixth in 2007 and fourth in 2008, Club de Futbol Pachuca will not be short of motivation when they embark on their third FIFA Club World Cup campaign against TP Mazembe Englebert on Friday.
Keen to atone for these previous disappointments, and despite their Mexican Apertura quarter-final exit at the hands of Monterrey last month, Los Tuzos' encouraging attacking form suggests they are capable of making a splash at the global club showpiece.
Pachuca coach Pablo Marini already had a broad range of forward options available to him even before Franco Arizala presented him with a welcome selection headache. The scorer of four goals in that Monterrey tie, the Colombian has every chance of starting Friday’s quarter-final against the African champions alongside Dario Cvitanich, Edgar Benitez or American wide-man Herculez Gomez.
“We’ve got a great group of forwards,” said coach Marini in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “Aside from Cvitanich and Arizala, we’ve got Benitez, who played for Paraguay at the (2010) World Cup, and Gomez, who was there with USA. Three of the four are going to play. They’re excellent players and we’ve got every faith that they can all do a job for us.”
Argentinian striker Cvitanich, who will be leaving the club at the end of UAE 2010, hit eight goals during the Apertura, with Benitez scoring six and Arizala five. Together the trio formed one of the deadliest attacks in the league, although it was not until late in the regular season that Los Tuzos clinched a play-off place.
“Just because we like to play attacking football doesn’t mean to say we’re always going to win,” added Marini, sounding a note of caution. “We need to be watchful in defence and midfield and make sure we can get the ball up to the forwards. It’s also essential we keep possession. We’ve been working on that a lot and it’s something that can make all the difference.”
Two of the men with the biggest responsibilities to shoulder in Abu Dhabi will be Alejandro Manso – who appeared at Japan 2008 with Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito – and Braulio Luna. Along with goalkeeper Miguel Calero, the midfield tandem are Marini’s trusted on-field lieutenants and enjoy his complete confidence.
“We’re lucky to have players like them,” said the coach appreciatively. “They have a lot of experience and they’ll definitely help the younger players have a good tournament.”
While Pachuca’s attack looks formidable, the same cannot quite be said of their defence, which conceded 32 goals in 19 regular-season and play-off matches in the league, giving Marini food for thought as he ponders his line-up for Friday’s meeting with the African champions.
“We made some mistakes that cost us a place in the championship semis,” admitted full-back Paul Aguilar. “We’ve got time to work on these errors and put them right, though. Like the coach says, we need to apply ourselves to get possession of the ball and, more than anything, to stop the Mazembe players from settling. They’re strong and we need to be careful.”
After finishing a lowly sixth in 2007 and fourth in 2008, Pachuca have good reason to be cautious as they make their third appearance in the competition. Yet despite that record, Marini’s men believe they can go much further this time.
“Everyone in Mexico gets excited about this competition,” added central defender Leobardo Lopez. “There’s always huge expectation whenever a club or the national team takes part in an international tournament, and we’re looking to make history for both Pachuca and the country.”