x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pachuca hope for third time lucky with foreign aid

Previous cup forays were disappointing but the leading Mexican club are excited at the prospect of making their presence felt in Abu Dhabi.

Pachuca's Herculez Gomez, right, the American striker, is excited about the Club World Cup. 
Brett Coomer / AP Photo
Pachuca's Herculez Gomez, right, the American striker, is excited about the Club World Cup. Brett Coomer / AP Photo

For their first 100 years, CF Pachuca of Mexico were perhaps best-known for having been founded in 1901 by Cornish miners who left behind a local delicacy known in Spanish as "pastes". The club's achievements on the pitch were far less memorable.

Over the past decade, however, Pachuca have emerged as one of the top clubs in North America, a four-time winner of the Concacaf Champions League and annual contenders for top honours in the Mexican Premera Division.

Now, Pachuca would like to become a global brand, which they might well achieve in Abu Dhabi in the coming weeks by reversing their fortunes in the Club World Cup (CWC).

They are the first side to make a third appearance in the seven-year history of the tournament, but they have little to show for their previous efforts: immediate dismissal at the hands of the Africa representatives, Etoile du Sahel, in 2007, an extra-time victory over Al Ahly of Egypt in 2008, followed by a 5-3 loss at the hands of LDU Quito of South America in the semi-finals and a 1-0 loss to the Asia champion Gamba Osaka in the third-place match.

Four matches, three defeats.

"I'd like us to arrive at the Club World Cup in the best possible form," Pablo Marini, the club's Argentine coach, told fifa.com. "Success in the competition is crucial to the club."

Pachuca are matched with the Africa champion TP Mazembe in a December 10 quarter-final. The winner advances to meet Internacional of Brazil.

Pachuca qualified in April for a trip to Abu Dhabi when Edgar Benitez scored in the second minute of extra time to snatch the continental championship from the Mexico City club Cruz Azul.

"When we saw the ball hit the net, it was madness," said Guillermo Rivarola, the former Pachuca coach. "There was tons of emotion. We all wanted to hug each other because the goal gave us the championship and a ticket to the Club World Cup."

Rivarola, however, will not be using his ticket; he was sacked three games into this season after Los Tuzos (the Gophers) started poorly.

Pachuca are notable in the Mexican league for their liberal use of foreigners, once considered taboo in the national league.

In their most recent match, against Monterrey in the league play-offs, Marini employed seven foreigners in his first XI: three Argentines, two Colombians, a Paraguayan and an American.

The club leans heavily on foreigners to produce goals; 23 of their 29 goals in the current domestic season have come from the imports. The Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich, formerly of Ajax, has eight goals; Benitez, a Paraguayan international, has six and the Colombian Franco Arizale has five.

Two key figures in the midfield are the Argentine Damian Manso and the American Jose Torres.

Manso played in the 2008 CWC for Quito, and Torres played in the same event for Pachuca. The American also appeared in the 2010 World Cup for the US, as did the reserve forward Herculez Gomez. "First a World Cup and now a Club World Cup," Gomez said. "What a wonderful opportunity to gain experience against some of the world's best players."

Benitez and the Mexico defender Paul Aguilar also went to the 2010 World Cup.

The goalkeeper, Mario Calero, a Colombian, is set to make his third appearance in the Club World Cup; he was in goal for Pachuca's 2007 and 2008 teams.

The club are not stultifying in defence; they have conceded nearly 1.7 goals per match in 19 domestic games.

The club's hometown is formally known as Pachuca de Soto, population 270,000, and is the capital of Hidalgo state, about 90km southeast of Mexico City. It once was part of the Aztec Empire and was later exploited by Spanish colonists for its mineral deposits, particularly silver and gold; an estimated 3,400kg of silver were extracted from the hills around the city, much of it by the Cornishmen who arrived in the 19th century.

When the mines played out, about 50 years ago, the city faced economic ruin until it was reinvented as an industrial and educational centre.

Now, among its claims to fame, the city calls itself "the cradle of Mexican football". Other claimants to that title exist, but they have not matured into a football side as formidable as Pachuca CF.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae


Information


Home: Pachuca de Soto, Mexico

How qualified: Won Concacaf Champions League

Founded: 1901

Coach: Pablo Marini

Domestic championships: 5

Key victory: Defeated Cruz Azul of Mexico City in extra time in April to win second leg 1-0 and triumph on away goals