Pachuca's path starts with Africans

Pachuca on Wednesday learned the path it must follow to win the club world championship, a task that would appear to be well beyond the Mexican club.

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.

This is Pachuca's third trip to the tournament. It lost to Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel in the 2007 quarterfinals, and in 2008 beat Egypt's Al-Ahly in the quarterfinals and fell to Ecuador's LDU Quito in the semifinals. Mexico's America (in 2005) and Atlante (last year) finished fourth. Costa Rica's Saprissa was third in a 2000 trial run. The current format wasn't officially adopted until 2005. The Intercontinental Cup, contested between Europe's and South America's champions, determined the world's top team from 1960 to 2004.

TP Mazembe is the defending champion in the African Champions League final, which will be played in two legs, Sunday in Lubumbashi, Congo, and Nov. 13 in Tunis. Mezembe lost to South Korea's Pohang Steelers in the Club World Cup quarterfinals last year.

Tournament host Al Wahda, from UAE, meets Oceania champ Hekari United from Papua New Guinea in the opening round, with the winner facing the Asian Champions League winner -- South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma or Iran'z Zob Ihan; they play Nov. 13 in Tokyo -- and the survivor taking on Inter Milan in the semifinals.

The schedule:

First round

Dec. 8: Al Wahda (United Arab Emirates) vs. Hekari United (Papua New Guinea)


Dec. 10: Pachuca (Mexico) vs. African Champions League winner

Dec. 11: Asian Champions League winner vs. Al Wahda/Hekari United


Dec. 14: Internacional (Brazil) vs. Pachuca/African champion

Dec. 15: Inter Milan (Italy) vs. Asian champion/Al Wahda/Hekari United


Dec. 15: Fifth-place match

Dec. 18: Championship and third-place match


2005: Sao Paulo (Brazil)

2006: Internacional (Brazil)

2007: AC Milan (Italy)

2008: Manchester United (England)

2009: Barcelona (Spain)