CONCACAF champions Monterrey landed in Japan this morning in advance of their match against the winner of Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol and Oceania champions Auckland City. Monterrey have the slightly easier path to the finals as they would face South American champions Santos in the semifinal instead of Barcelona, but of course they would have to get past the survivor of the preliminary round first. Pachuca had a team every bit as good as Monterrey in 2007, and they lost to Etoile du Sahel in the first round. The best CONCACAF performance at the Club World Cup remains that of a non-Mexican club: Saprissa in 2005.
Monterrey will bring their top squad to Japan, including Humberto Suazo, Aldo de Nigris, Walter Ayoví, and César Delgado. Coach Juan Manuel Vucetich believes that his squad can be competitive due to the experience that many members of his squad have at international club and country competitions, and there is a case to be made about experience being important. If Monterrey play Kashiwa in the first round -- which I think is very likely -- I would be very interested in seeing how Monterrey's defense matches up against Kashiwa's midfield, especially J-League MVP Leander Domingues.
No word yet on whether the team will eat sushi or shower with bottled water, as other sportsmen who recently traveled within the country have done.