ABU DHABI // Jose Guadalupe Cruz, the coach of the Mexican Concacaf champions Atlante, said that while his players have taken their time to adjust to Abu Dhabi's skyscraper-dotted skyline they will not be daunted by the physical test awaiting them in tonight's Club World Cup quarter-final against Auckland City.
The Oceania champions are a much taller unit than Cruz's side, but the coach believed his team's unique style of play will counterbalance any shortcomings they may have size-wise. "Of course, taller players have an advantage, but this is the way things are," said Cruz, who said his squad had taken time out from training for a brief tour of the capital. "We cannot distract ourselves from reality, they are taller and we have formidable opponents. Physically they are in pristine shape, well organised and team-orientated - the game will be a challenge.
"It is clear to us that this is one of Auckland's advantages, but we have our own tricks and our style to get a result. We are prepared to stop their attacks and we are here to win." Atlante's last competitive game was nearly a month ago, but Cruz believed his squad understand what is at stake and that the extended break will not hinder their performance. "We haven't played in an official capacity for a little while, but this can work in both ways," said Cruz. "We are very rested and we could play better, or maybe we've had too much free time.
"Yes have been off the pitch for a month, but we are very conscious of what it means to play in the competition. "Just being here is a great honour and an amazing opportunity. We will play to win and try our best to claim the trophy." Two players key to Atlante's chances of progress are the enigmatic goalkeeper Federico Vilar and the experienced Argentine Santiago Solari. The former Real Madrid and Inter Milan midfielder joined Cruz's team with an eye on the Club World Cup, and his coach said he has integrated well.
"Santiago is a very well known member of team," said Cruz. "He has won wherever he has played and he fits in very well with us. It is a great honour that he decided to come and play with us; he was aware we could give him an opportunity that other clubs could not. His quality is first-class and his arrival has been very good for him and very good for us. "We are a physical and hard working team and Santiago has worked hard - he fits in perfectly with our structure as you will see when he plays."
Having watched Auckland in action, Vilar, who has netted four set-pieces in his five years at the club, also believes Atlante's Mexican style will be too much for the New Zealanders. "We watched the Al Ahli-Auckland game and we analysed both teams," said Vilar. "We had no preferences, but now Al Ahli are history we are focusing on how the Kiwis play. "We have a very defined style of play. It is the Mexican style and it is a recipe which has been very successful for us.
"It's our own formula and we are not going to change it; there will be no surprises, our trademark is the way we play." email@example.com