5 Things You Need to Know About Club World Cup Challengers Cruz Azul

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2014

5 Things You Need to Know About Club World Cup Challengers Cruz Azul

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    Christian Palma/Associated Press

    Cruz Azul will represent CONCACAF in this year's FIFA Club World Cup. This will be the 10th time a Mexican club stands for the confederation.

    La Maquina will make their debut in this year's edition and they will do it in front of Australian side Western Sydney Wanderers.

    The Mexican side arrives in the tournament with disappointment as they missed the 2014 Apertura Liguilla (playoffs) after crumbling in the last three matchdays.

    Now, coach Luis Fernando Tena will try to give La Maquina's fans something to celebrate before the year ends.

Cruz Azul Haven't Won the Liga Mx Since 1997

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    MOISES CASTILLO/Associated Press

    Between 1968 and 1980 Cruz Azul secured seven Liga MX titles. In that 12-year span, they had some of the best Mexican footballers in the league, such as Antonio Munguia, Horacio Lopez, Gustavo Pena and Javier Guzman.

    The club seemed to be unstoppable, but it wasn't. The team couldn't grab a championship for another 17 years.

    In 1997, Luis Fernando Tena took a group of players all the way to the final match of the Invierno 1997.

    La Maquina faced Leon, who had been the regular season leaders. The game was so close that the winner was determined during overtime.

    Carlos Hermosillo scored a penalty kick in the 100th minute, after receiving a kick in the face by Leon goalkeeper Luis Angel Comizzo.

    That was the last time La Maquina hoisted a champion's trophy, despite playing over five finals ever since.

Fourth Most Succesful Club in the Liga MX

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    Christian Palma/Associated Press

    Cruz Azul are the fourth-most successful Mexican club, as they have secured eight titles since they were promoted to the Liga MX in 1964.

    They trail Guadalajara and America, both with 11 titles, and Toluca, who has 10.

    La Maquina have also secured other trophies, such as three Copas MX (the latest in 2013), a CONCACAF Champions League (2014) and two Campeon de Campeones (1968/69 and 1973/74).

First Mexican Club to Reach the Copa Libertadores Final

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    DANIEL LUNA/Associated Press

    In 2001, Cruz Azul received an invitation to compete in the pre-tournament of the Copa Libertadores, where they secured their ticket to the competition along with Venezuelan squad Tachira.

    Coach Jose Luis Trejo amazed the world as he led Cruz Azul to the final match of the tournament, becoming the first Mexican club to achieve the feat.

    Cruz Azul finished first in Group 7, with a 4-1-1 record. In the round of 16 they defeated Cerro Porteno.

    In the quarterfinals, they faced River Plate and managed to secure a scoreless draw at Estadio Monumental. Later, La Maquina trashed them 3-0 at Estadio Azteca.

    The semifinals put them in front of Rosario Central. After a 2-0 win in Mexico City, Cruz Azul struggled in Argentina, but ultimately Francisco Palencia scored in the 89th minute to tie the score at 3-3, enough to reach the final.

    Boca Juniors was the next rival and defeated La Maquina 1-0 in the first leg, held at Estadio Azteca.

    But the Mexican club did the unthinkable by winning 1-0 in the second leg. Before that, no other team had won a Copa Libertadores final match held at La Bombonera (regular time).

    The title was awarded after penalty kicks. Juan Roman Riquelme, Mauricio Serna and Marcelo Delgado scored for the Argentine side, while Palencia was the only player who put the ball away for La Maquina. Boca Juniors claimed the title. 

    In 2010, Guadalajara became the second Mexican club to reach the final, but lost to Brazilian side Internacional.

Players to Watch

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    Christian Palma/Associated Press

    Mariano Pavone, Christian Gimenez and Mauro Formica have proven to be lethal in the attacking zone.

    During the 2014 Apertura tournament, these three footballers scored seven of the 15 goals that Cruz Azul grabbed in 17 matchdays.

    Gimenez has speed and technique, which make him very valuable when he attacks through the flanks and also in set pieces.

    Formica and Pavone are strong and both know how to move inside the box. Formica is very powerful when he joins the attack from behind.

    In the midfield, captain Gerardo Torrado will be the man in charge of providing structure and feeding balls to the last third of the pitch.

    Torrado is a veteran footballer who has appeared in three World Cups, one Confederations Cup and one Copa America.

    Jose de Jesus Corona will be keeping things safe in goal. He has great reflexes and provides leadership and confidence to the back line.

This Will Be Their First Appearance at the Club World Cup

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    Steve Bardens/Getty Images

    Cruz Azul secured their ticket for the Club World Cup after winning the 2014 CONCACAF Champions League.

    Although La Maquina reached the 2009 and 2010 finals, Atlante and Pachuca claimed the trophy, respectively, leaving Cruz Azul out of the Club World Cup.

    Cruz Azul won the 1969, 1970, 1971, 1996 and 1997 editions of the Champions League. However, the Club World Cup tournament wasn't created until 2000.

    With their participation in this year's event, La Maquina joins Necaxa, America, Pachuca, Atlante and Monterrey as the only clubs that have played in the competition.

    All stats appear courtesy of ESPN FC, unless otherwise noticed.

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