Pachuca ready for 'giants of South America' Gremio after overcoming stubborn Wydad Casablanca at Fifa Club World Cup
Diego Alonso said his Mexican side had to overcome a serious bout of nerves to overcome champions of Africa in their quarter-final match
Pachuca manager Diego Alonso said his side had to conquer serious nerves to overcome Wydad Casablanca in their Fifa Club World Cup quarter-final in Abu Dhabi, a victory that sets up a clash against “giants of South America” Gremio.
The Mexicans were made to work for their win at Zayed Sports City stadium on Saturday night, requiring an extra-time goal from Victor Guzman to get past the 10-man Moroccans. Wydad had captain Brahim Nakach sent off 21 minutes from time.
By then Pachuca had begun to dominate, although Wydad did enjoy the better of the first half and struck the woodwork after the break through substitute Ismail Al Haddad's miscued cross.
In the end, Pachuca had Guzman to thank after the forward connected with Jonathan Urretaviscaya’s 112th-minute cross to place a brilliant header past Zouhair Larroubi in the Wydad goal.
Seeking to become the first Mexicans to reach the Club World Cup final, Pachuca now face Brazil’s Gremio, the recently crowned Copa Libertadores champions, in Al Ain on Tuesday.
“First, I want to congratulate Wydad and their coach, because I like a lot how the team play,” Alonso said post-match. “And also you have to know how to lose, how not only to win the game. And after the game they had an exemplar attitude.
“Honestly it was difficult. Our first half was bad. We were nervous, in fact we were very nervous. In the second half the team improved a lot, we had another attitude, better tactics and so we could play better against the opponent.
“From there we dominated the match. We were able to control it in a better way. We were more calm, we realised that nothing was wrong. I hope that after three days on Tuesday we will no longer be nervous.”
- Ali Mabkhout winner sets up semi-final clash with Real Madrid for hosts Al Jazira
- Ian Hawkey: Keisuke Honda purrs for Pachuca and keeps 'Rabbit' on his toes
- Gareth Bale part of Fifa Club World Cup squad but question remains on match fitness
Gremio are sure to offer Pachuca an even greater challenge at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, though. The Brazilians may be making their debut at the Club World Cup - in contrast, Pachuca are competing in the tournament for a fourth time - but they have been hugely successful in South American football.
Their Copa Libertadores final triumph two weeks ago was the third time they have been crowned champions of the continent, and a first since 1995. En route to the trophy, they lost only once in 14 matches.
Therefore, Alonso recognises the size of the task come Tuesday.
“Logically, we know how big Gremio is, what Gremio means in Brazil,” he said. “They are a giant of South America. Also, they have developed a high potential with the coach and their players to win the Copa Libertadores, playing fantastic football.
“They are not only strong locally, but in my opinion they play better outside of their home. They have players with a lot of quality, but I hope we can exploit their deficiencies in order to have a possibility to win the match.
“Considering the semi-final, it’s important for Pachuca because it gives us the chance to play the final. It is a great opportunity. I said before this match that this is our final, and now we’re done we have another challenge: be the first team from Mexico who played at this level, try to play an opponent who is hugely experienced. So we hope we win it.”
Updated: December 10, 2017 10:27 AM