These are proud and accomplished sides who have won multiple continental championships but the big prize among the clubs awaits them.
Mazembe or Pachuca: Redemption awaits one
No teams in the 2010 Club World Cup have as much to prove to the planet's football fans as do TP Mazembe of Africa and CF Pachuca of Mexico.
These are proud and accomplished sides who have won multiple continental championships. But each also is burdened with a history in this tournament that can only be described as miserable. A day of redemption is at hand for one of them. More pain awaits the other.
No side has appeared in more Club World Cups than Pachuca; this is their third appearance in the seven-year history of the tournament. The first two trips did not go well, three defeats in four matches that brought into doubt, on a global stage, the competence of the club as well as its compadres in North America.
Mazembe are the first side to make a successive appearance in the event, and it comes after a shabby showing in the capital a year ago, when the Congolese team lost 2-1 to Pohang Steelers and 3-2 to the amateur side Auckland City.
Both Pachuca and Mazembe, then, are desperate for a victory at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in an 8pm match tonight. Not only would it mean a semi-final with Internacional of Brazil, it would move them within a win of becoming the first non-European/South American side to play in the final.
"This is a great opportunity for us," said Miguel Calero, the Pachuca goalkeeper who will be making his fifth start in the Club World Cup. "Our intention is to be well-known all over the world. [Mazembe] are the same as us."
Given Singulama, the Mazembe forward, said: "We came here to prove something. We are the champions of Africa, and we need to show that."
If their fears and aspirations are similar, the sides are not.
Pachuca are a patient, safety-first side who want to dominate possession and slowly build up in the attack. Mazembe are known for the urgency with which they press forward, as their opponents in the final of the African Champions League, Esperance of Tunisia, could attest after being riddled for five goals in 90 minutes.
Not that Pachuca have no weapons. The Argentine Dario Cvitanich, has eight goals in 17 league matches this season and Edgar Benitez, the Paraguayan forward, has scored six. Franco Arizala and Herculez Gomes also are capable strikers, and three of those four are likely to start tonight.
Mazembe seem to have overcome the loss, to a one-year ban, of their captain and striker Tresor Mputu. Kazembe Mihayo has replaced him and Singuluma and Dioko Kaluyituka have stepped up in the attack.
Pachuco's Marini suggested Mazembe will have an advantage in size and speed. "We have been surprised by how strong they are, how fast they are, how strong they are in midfield," he said. "Mazembe will be a very difficult rival for Pachuca, but Pachuca will be a very hard question for Mazembe."
For both clubs, in the Club World Cup, nearly everyone has been a difficult rival.