Unlike most people, I remain unconvinced that the World Club Cup is going to be a straight fight between Internacional and Barcelona. I’ll cover my reasons for thinking this in more detail later in the week, but one of the reasons is Club America. This is Mexico’s richest club we’re talking about, here. Bankrolled by the television station Televisa, Club Mexico are a massive, massive club, and to write them off immediately would be foolish. Having said that, Mexican football is famously insane, so they could just as easily implode upon touching down in Tokyo.
The biggest rivalry in Mexican football is between Club America and Chivas of Guadalajara and, I’m sorry to say, if you support Club America, you’re supporting the Dark Side. CA are the club of middle-class Mexico City, playing their home matches in a half-full Azteca Stadium (though, to be fair, it would be be pretty difficult for anybody to fill the 104,000 capacity Azteca). They flaunt their money, and often bring in foreign players to bolster their squad. Even FIFA’s own website says that “Club America is unquestionably the club historically associated with wealth and forward-moving business concerns in Mexico”. Compared to them, Chivas of Guadalajara are the workers’ team. Chivas have been singularly successful in marketing themselves to the huge Mexican immigrant population living in America, but CA don’t need to.
The current squad has names that you will have heard of. Mexican players, like Italians and the English, don’t travel abroad to play as often as most nationalities, and the core of Mexico’s team that came within an inch of knocking Argentina out of the World Cup at the second round stage last summer in Germany comes from CA. Cuauhtemoc Blanco, he of the original (if pointless) bunny-hop, still runs their midfield, though at 33 years old one could argue that he’s well past his best. Certainly the Mexican coach Ricardo Lavolpe thought this, but such is CA’s power that he almost lost his job when he left Blanco out of the Mexican squad for the last World Cup. Claudio Lopez is also over thirty now, but the Argentinian forward that Lazio once played thirty-five million Euros for is still an excellent player. Other CA players of note include Nelson Cuevas, who was one of the few Paraguayan players to impress during the World Cup, and the veteran Chilean defender Ricardo Rojas.
Club America have a decent enough draw, and have a good chance of making the final. They should comfortably see of Jeonbuk Motors in the quarter-finals and, should they manage this, they are plenty capable of beating of beating Barcelona in the semi-finals, should the Catalans have an off day. That said, though, this tournament has come in the middle of the Mexican league’s play-offs. How seriously will they take it all, coming off the back of a crucial derby match against Chivas (which was being played this weekend)? I don’t know what is making me think this, but I just have this inkling that Club America, if they turn up with the right attitude, could just cause a major surprise in this competition. Just don’t quote me on it.