Los Angeles Soccer: Internacional
Dario Cvitanich rescued Pachuca in Wednesday's fifth-place match at the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. but the Mexican team's triumph on penalty kicks sends CONCACAF home from FIFA's top club competition without a victory for the second time.
Cvitanich scored in the 82nd and 89th minutes to pull Pachuca back from a two-goal deficit in the 2-2 draw with host Al-Wahda, then converted the first spot kick in a 4-2 triumph in the tiebreaker.
The Tuzos, who had Americans Herculez Gomez and Jose Francisco "Gringo" Torres in their starting XI Wednesday, can take some comfort from its quarterfinal defeat to TP Mazembe, with the African champion -- from the Democratic Republic of Congo -- becoming the first club not from Europe or South America to reach the title game.
Mazembe stunned Brazil's Internacional, the Copa Libertadores titlist and winner of the Club World Cup in 2006, in the semifinals, claiming a 2-0 victory Tuesday on superb goals by Mulota Kabangu and Congolese national-teamer Dioko Kaluyituka.
UEFA Champions League winner Inter Milan will take on the Africans in Saturday's final in Abu Dhabi after thrashing South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa, 3-0, in Wednesday's semifinal. Dejan Stankovic, Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito scored the goals.
Pachuca didn't have huge expectations to meet at the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. Nobody expected the Mexican club (and not even the best of Mexican clubs) to reach the final -- that's, as always, the domain of the Europeans and South Americans.
But the Tuzos failure to advance from the quarterfinals, for the second time in three appearances in FIFA's club championship, is a grave disappointment that makes it difficult to counter perceptions that CONCACAF's leagues aren't at a particularly high level.
Pachuca was eliminated from the competition in its opener Friday, falling to African champ TP Mazembe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mbenza Bedi scored the only goal, sweetly finishing high inside the near post from Mulota Kabangu's flick into the box in the 21st minute.
Two of Pachuca's Americans saw action -- Jose Francisco Torres started and former Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez came on in the second half -- and good for them. The experience certainly is worthwhile.
Pachuca had its chances: Damian Manso struck the post in the 17th minute and Raul Martinez the crossbar in the 60th. But the Mexicans head to Wednesday's fifth-place game, against the loser in Saturday's quarterfinal between UAE's Al-Wahda and South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa, the Asian champion.
America will take on Argentina's Argentinos Juniors and Uruguay's Nacional in group play of next year's Copa Libertadores, but Friday's draw for South America's club competition didn't provide much information for the Aguilas' fellow Mexican qualifiers.
A quick rundown:
AMERICA: Mexico's top qualifier received the toughest draw among the Mexicans. Argentinos Juniors, winner of Argentina's Clausura title, is its country's No. 1 qualifier, and Nacional is Uruguay's No. 2 team in the competition. The fourth club will be Brazil's No. 3 qualifier: Fluminense, Corinthians or Cruzeiro.
Argentinos Juniors won the Libertadores championship in 1985; Nacional has three titles, the last in 1988. Cruzeiro has won twice and was in the 2009 final.
SAN LUIS: The Gladiadores were sent to Group 1, with Peru's (Universidad San Martin or Leon de Huanuco) and Paraguay's (Guarani, Libertad or Cerro Porteņo) top qualifiers and Colombia's No. 2 side.
JAGUARES: The Chiapas club will face the No. 3 team from Peru in the home-and-home first stage, with the winner heading to Group 6 with defending champion Internacional from Brazil (which beat Guadalajara in last summer's final), Bolivia's Jorge Wilstermann and Ecuador's No. 2 qualifier, either Emelec or LDU Quito.
SCHEDULE: The top two teams in each of eight groups will advance to the knockout phase. Opening games are scheduled for Jan. 26; group play begins Feb. 9; the knockout stage opens April 27; and the two-leg final will be June 15 and 22.
Pachuca is awaiting results Saturday evening and Sunday to discover if it's headed to the Mexican Primera Division's Apertura playoffs, but they've learned who they'll open against in next month's FIFA Club World Cup.
TP Mazembe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, routed Tunisia's Esperance to win its second successive African Champions League title and advance to the Dec. 8-18 club world championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Mazembe won on aggregate, 6-1, after a 1-1 draw in Saturday's second leg. The Africans will face Pachuca in a Dec. 10 quarterfinal, with the winner advancing to face Brazil's Internacional, the Copa Libertadores winner, in a Dec. 14 semifinal.
Mazembe lost to South Korea's Pohang Steelers in the Club World Cup quarterfinals last year.
Pachuca, which won its Apertura regular-season finale Friday, will reach the eight-team Liguilla if UANL Tigres fails to beat Atlas on Saturday or if Pumas UNAM fails to beat America on Sunday. The Tuzos, whose roster includes Americans Herculez Gomez, Jose Francisco Torres and Marco Antonio Vidal, qualified for the Club World Cup by winning the CONCACAF Champions League title last spring.
The Tuzos, who gained entry to the annual seven-team Club World Cup by winning the CONCACAF Champions League title last spring, must beat Africa's champion and Copa Libertadores titlist Internacional to reach the Dec. 18 title game in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They'll find out their first foe -- either the Democratic Republic of Congo's TP Mazembe or Tunisia's Esperance -- when the African Champions League wraps up Nov. 13.
Brazil's Internacional, which beat Guadalajara in the Copa Libertadores final in August, and UEFA Champions League winner Inter Milan are seeded into the semifinals. Internacional won the Club World Cup four years ago.
Pachuca has been unimpressive in the Mexican Primera Division's current Apertura tournament, falling further from playoff contention with a 3-2 loss Tuesday to visiting UANL Tigres that left its record 4-6-4 with three games to go in the regular season. The Tuzos have three American players: Los Angeles-born Herculez Gomez, a former forward with the Galaxy, and Texans Jose Francisco Torres and Marco Antonio Vidal. Gomez and Torres played for the U.S. at the World Cup in South Africa.