Mazembe eager to make a huge impact in UAE
TP Mazembe, from southern Democratic Republic of Congo mining hub Lubumbashi, flopped in the annual inter-continent competition last year, losing to Pohang Steelers of South Korea and Auckland City of New Zealand.
Finishing second last was a serious reality check for a team who travelled to Abu Dhabi desperate to justify the boast of coach Diego Garzitto that his squad could lift the trophy despite the presence of Spanish maestros Barcelona.
African clubs have won just three of 15 matches and drawn one in the Club World Cup, scoring 19 goals and conceding 28, with famous Egyptian club Al-Ahly suffering several embarrassing defeats by Australian rivals.
Franco-Italian Garzitto was fired this year after a heavy African loss and Senegal-born successor Lamine N'Diaye is adopting a more realistic approach ahead of a Friday showdown with the Central and North American champions.
"Many of my team went to Abu Dhabi last year and desperately want to improve on those results," N'Diaye told Congolese journalists before the team flew to the Middle East.
"They let down themselves, the Congolese people and all of Africa and each one wants to show the world just how skilfull and good they really are. We want to win at least one game this time."
N'Diaye worries about the physical and mental state of a team tired after playing 60-plus matches at domestic and international level this year, with 14 games needed to retain the African Champions League title.
“We decided to show up very early (ten days before the competition) in order to get some tranquility and focus on the competition. We were supposed to go Qatar first but we preferred to leave Lumbashi and stay away from the euphoria in the RD Congo,” the Senegalese tactician told a press conference two days before the start of the tournament.
Last year, Les Corbeaux (the Crows) had to rely on the away-goal rule to pip Heartland of Nigeria for the trophy, but whipped Esperance of Tunisia 6-1 on aggregate last month despite the absence of their talisman.
Captain, midfielder, leading scorer and Congolese football icon Tresor Mputu is serving a one-year worldwide ban after assaulting match officials during a regional club championship in Rwanda.
Team-mate Basisila Lusadisu was slapped with an 11-month suspension after the same incident, but Mazembe dispelled fears they would implode without the duo by retaining the title in convincing fashion.
“It was a shocking decision for us at the beginning but the players delivered their goods and the team remarkably maintained its progress. Our star is Mazembe, we have a lot of talented players but each one battles to help his teammate. It’s our key to success,” N'Diaye was quoted as saying on the club's official website.
"We have done our research on the Mexicans and believe we know them well. They have the edge over us in experience as this will be their third appearance in the competition."
Pachuca have had mixed luck against African opposition, losing 1-0 to Etoile Sahel of Tunisia in 2007 and overcoming a two-goal deficit to defeat Al-Ahly of Egypt 4-2 after extra time the following year.
Mazembe will bank heavily on midfielder Dioko Kaluyituka - second highest 2010 African Champions League scorer with seven goals - and Zambian striker Given Singuluma to unlock the Mexican defence.
Muteba Kidiaba, the 34-year-old goalkeeper famous for bouncing along the ground on his bottom in celebration, wants to redeem his image after being red-carded against Auckland.