The word ‘jinx’ may sound a little strong, but the fact remains that for the third time in three trips to the FIFA Club World Cup, Club de Futbol Pachuca have failed to do justice to their reputation as one of the dominant sides in Mexico and CONCACAF over the past decade.
Adding to the palpable sense of disappointment in Los Tuzos’ camp here at UAE 2010 are the high hopes everyone had prior to arriving in Abu Dhabi. Determined to improve on their sixth-placed finish at Japan 2007 and their fourth spot from Japan 2008, coach Pablo Marini’s charges were in confident mood and enjoying their favourites’ status prior to their quarter-final clash with TP Mazembe Englebert.
Yet their dreams of glory were over almost before they began, with a combination of the woodwork, defensive lapses and wayward finishing denying the CONCACAF Champions League winners a place in the last four. Devastated by their early exit, Los Tuzos must now lift themselves in time for tomorrow's match for fifth place against host nation representatives Al-Wahda Sports Club.
“The defeat against Mazembe was a real blow because we’d been hoping to do much better and reach the final at the very least,” Pachuca captain Miguel Calero told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “Our tournament was over as soon as we lost, but we now need to focus on winning our next game out of respect for football, the fans, the competition’s organisers and our opponents. We want to prove that we can do better, because that wasn’t the real Pachuca.”
However, Pachuca’s upcoming opponents Al Wahda are sure to provide a stern test. Having comfortably won their opening game against Hekari United FC, the Emirati club were brought down to earth with a bang by Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma F.C. and are also keen to finish on a positive note at Zayed Sports City.
But in the eyes of Colombian goalkeeper Calero, Pachuca are well capable of winning Wednesday’s game, providing they show cooler heads in front of goal than against the CAF Champions League winners. “We had three or four clear-cut chances against Mazembe which we weren’t able to convert,” added the 39-year-old keeper. "We started really badly and then lost our heads a bit in our desperation to equalise. We didn’t have the patience needed to take our chances, so I hope history doesn’t repeat itself in our next game."
Echoing the sentiment was another veteran, in the shape of midfielder Braulio Luna. “Al Wahda are a good team, they’re playing on home soil and will be determined to finish in fifth spot,” said the 36-year-old former Mexico international. "For all those reasons they won’t make life easy for us. But with all due respect to our opponents, we just need to focus on our own game and on performing better. That way we can finish the tournament with our heads held high.”