Who are they? Pachuca Club de Futbol
Where are they from? Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
How did they qualify? Winners of CONCACAF Champions League
Pachuca head to the FIFA Club World Cup for the third time this month, hoping to improve on their fourth place finish in 2008. The team qualified for the event in the most dramatic of circumstances last April. Pitted against domestic rivals Cruz Azul in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, Pachuca trailed on aggregate 2-1 from a first leg defeat and had to wait until deep into injury time of the second leg before Edgar Benitez’s goal gave them an aggregate victory and the right to be called CONCACAF champions.
One of the most accomplished Mexican clubs in the last decade, Pachuca have won five domestic titles and four CONCACAF Champions Cups since the new millennium. In addition to this, the Mexican giants also became the first team outside South America to win the 2006 Copa Sudamericana. The past ten years has seen the club transformed from a minor side that bounced back and forth between the top two divisions into a domestic and regional powerhouse that has claimed many trophies.
Certainly after the disappointment of finishing fourth in 2008, Pachuca will be aiming to go one better and make it to the final. Pablo Marini’s side have shown they are an explosive and experienced team capable of success against big sides. Undoubtedly, the Mexican outfit will expect to dispose of African champions TP Mazembe in the quarter-finals and book a semi-final date with Brazilians Internacional. If they make it that far, Pachuca will want to break the European-South American stranglehold on the Club World Cup and are widely considered the one team in the tournament well enough equipped to do so.
Edgar Benitez – Striker: The 23-year-old Paraguayan scored arguably the goal that could define his career back in April when deep into injury time he struck to give Pachuca a 1-0 win over Cruz Azul in the second leg of the 2009/10 CONCACAF Champions League final; a result which gave his team an away goals aggregate win and the regional title. It was just one of Benitez’s five goals in the competition and his performances in the tournament were a big reason why Pachuca now find themselves in Abu Dhabi. After his performances in the CONCACAF Champions League, Benitez received offers to move to a different club, however insisted his focus was with Pachuca and helping the team perform at the Club World Cup.
Paul Aguilar – Defender: Scorer of two vital goals in the quarter-final against Comunicaciones, Aguilar was another vital cog in Pachuca’s road to CONACACAF Champions League glory. The full-back topped off a fine year by representing Mexico at the 2010 World Cup. With his pace and ability to get forward, Aguilar offers Pachuca another option in attack, though his defending has also been lauded since he broke onto the scene a few years back. He already has played more than 100 matches for the club and is a player who is improving each season.
Herulez Gomez – Striker: Born to Mexican-American parents, Gomez spent his entire life and playing career in his native United States. That was until a move came about last year that saw the former Los Angeles Galaxy player make the move south to join Mexican side Puebla. His time there may not have been very long, but Gomez managed to become the leading scorer in the Torneo Bicentenario with his 10 goals. This was the first time an American player had topped the scoring charts in Mexico. That goalscoring touch was what made Pachuca sign the 28-year-old. While he has yet to make a big impact with his new side, the feeling is that Gomez has the potential to make his mark with a big club like Los Tuzos. A player with speed and skill, Gomez has separated himself from other strikers in the past thanks to his ability to score all types of goals.
Pablo Marini: The Argentine boss is considered a no-nonsense tactician who, in his words, wants Pachuca to play an attacking brand of football. Drafted in to replace Guillermo Rivarola back in August, Marini helped resurrect a horrendous campaign and has steered Pachuca to seventh place thus far in the Torneo Apertura. Though he was not a part of the team’s CONACAF Champions League run, Marini has garnered respect for his work with Pachuca and leads a stabilised squad to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup. Marini’s coaching career has seen him take charge of such clubs as Newell’s Old Boys, Audax Italiano, and Jaguares. Though he has not been hugely successful in those stints, with Pachuca he has the chance to make a real name for himself, especially with a good run in the United Arab Emirates.
If the Club World Cup was played last April or May, surely Pachuca would have fancied their chances as the team were in superb form. The start of the new Mexican season this past summer though saw the club struggle and Rivarola resign after some heavy defeats. Luckily for Pachuca fans, Marini has kept the ship from sinking and Pachuca head to the Club World Cup in good form. With a solid mix of foreign and Mexican talent, this is a club that could give any side a match on their day. They should have enough to overcome Mazembe in the quarter-finals, but expect the Mexicans to falter once again when they play Internacional. A third-place finish looks to be on the cards this time around.