Who are they? Atlante Futbol Club
Where are they from? Cancun, Mexico
How did they qualify? 2008/09 CONCACAF Champions League Winners
Atlante qualified for the Club World Cup by defeating fellow Mexican side Cruz Azul in the final of the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League. That success was their second at a continent-wide level, following their CONCACAF Champions Cup triumph in 1983. A tumultuous history has limited them to three Mexican championships in the professional era, the most recent coming in the 2007 Apertura, just five months after they upped sticks and left Mexico City for the beaches and neon lights of Cancun.
Their Champions League success came in the midst of a disappointing domestic campaign that saw The Iron Colts finish 14th in the 2009 Clausura. The Mexicans finished in exactly the same position in the Apertura, again missing the cut for the playoffs and leaving question marks hanging over coach Jose Guadalope Cruz ahead of the Abu Dhabi showpiece.
Atlante’s poor domestic form means that expectations are not particularly high going into the tournament, especially as the draw pits them against European champions Barcelona should they overcome the winner of Al-Ahli and Auckland City at the quarter final stage. In the circumstances, a brave defeat against Josep Guardiola’s men would probably be enough to placate their supporters and the local media alike.
Federico Vilar – Goalkeeper: Vilar started his career in the youth team of Boca Juniors, but with first-team chances limited by the presence of Oscar Cordoba and Roberto Abbondanzieri, he was forced to take a roundabout route to international recognition. A superb shot-stopper and distributor of the ball, Vilar has built himself a reputation as one of the finest goalkeepers in the Mexican league and is on the fringes of the Argentine national team. The club captain will have to be at his best if Atlante are to impress in Abu Dhabi.
Gabriel Pereyra – Midfielder: The River Plate youth team graduate has carved out a nice career for himself in Mexico and has been an integral part of the Atlante side since his 2007 move from Cruz Azul. Technically proficient with a decent eye for goal, he was their top-scorer during the successful Champions League campaign with four strikes to his name.
Rafael Marquez Lugo – Striker: Quick, hard-working and selfless, Lugo is the sort of player fellow professionals love to have in their team. He provided the assists for both goals away to Cruz Azul in the first leg of the Champions League final and despite a less than stellar goalscoring record in his career thus far, was Atlante’s top-scorer in the recently concluded Apertura championship.
Jose Guadalupe Cruz – 42: As a player, Cruz was a member of the Atlante side that won the Mexican championship in 1993 and his close association with the club has continued into his coaching career. Two years into his second spell at the club, he has overseen a league title triumph and the Champions League victory that secured their spot in Abu Dhabi. He generally favours an attacking style of play, although he has neutered this instinct somewhat during the Apertura, where he has typically operated with just one out and out striker.
Atlante were impressive on their route on the Champions League trophy, but their domestic form doesn’t lie and it is hard to see them making much of an impact in the Middle East. They have enough good players to progress past the quarters, but are unlikely to have an answer for Barcelona’s slick passing football. With that in mind, a battling semi-final exit is about as good as they can hope for.
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