While unable to disguise his fatigue, Aldo de Nigris smiles constantly as he patiently waits for the translations to the questions from the Japanese media in the aftermath of his side’s 3-1 defeat against Chelsea FC. Monterrey may no longer be in contention for the FIFA Club World Cup title, but the Mexican forward appears determined to show that perseverance is one of his principal characteristics.

Even with the scoreline at 3-0, the No 9 never let his head drop and fought tirelessly against the Chelsea backline. Whether in the air, on the ground, shoulder to shoulder or launching an attack, De Nigris was intent on getting a consolation goal. “It wasn’t the result we were hoping for, but we gave everything we had,” he told FIFA.com afterwards.

“We played well in the first half, but conceding two goals early in the second period would destroy any team. We didn’t have any choice but to keep going, keep fighting and look for a goal. At least we managed to get one at the end.”

Chelsea represented the final hurdle on the way to what would have been a historic final for CONCACAF football, but in the end the English side proved too strong. De Nigris, who previously played for Tigres, Veracruz and Necaxa, believes there is a simple explanation as to what went wrong.

“We started out with too much respect, we were almost fearful. We didn’t get forward very much as we knew that they would be able to exploit the spaces and hurt us at any moment. It was an involuntary mistake and we should have attacked, just like we did at the end of the first half,” where, the forward insists, “we matched them for the final 20 minutes and hurt them when we had the ball.”

We want third place and we’re going to give everything to win it. It’ll be a very important match for us, that’s how we’re looking at it.

Monterrey's De Nigris

Turning over a new leaf
De Nigris, who led the line for Monterrey after the surprise withdrawal of Humberto Suazo to injury, was left with a bittersweet taste in the mouth. As painful as the defeat to Chelsea was in depriving the Mexicans of a place in the final, De Nigris’ personal performance met his own high expectations.

“You always try and do your best for the team and you always want to win, but it’s nice to score too. Even more so if you do it against such a tough team, with one of the best defences in the world. It’s been a good experience.”

An admirer of Gabriel Batistuta, Filippo Inzaghi and O Fenómeno Ronaldo, whom De Nigris regards as “the most complete player I’ve ever seen,” the forward believes he can return home satisfied. “I can compete against the best defenders and I’ve proved to myself that I have the ability to play in Europe,” he said.

But his flight back to Mexico will not be leaving just yet, as he has one more game to play on Sunday 16 December. The match for third place pits Monterrey against Al-Ahly in a fixture only Necaxa and Deportivo Saprissa have won from the CONCACAF zone.

“This wound will heal quickly, we need to turn over a new leaf and focus on this last game,” said the striker, who had one final parting shot at his forthcoming Egyptian opponents. “We want third place and we’re going to give everything to win it. It’ll be a very important match for us, that’s how we’re looking at it.” Al-Ahly would do well to take him at his word, for as Chelsea found out, the smiling exterior masks a gritty inner resolve.