Sundowns star rubbing his hands at prospect of facing Cristiano Ronaldo in Japan
Mamelodi Sundowns need to go to the Fifa Club World Cup with the mentality of being there to win and not just to make up the numbers‚ says the club’s high on confidence Percy Tau.
The 22-year-old Tau had perhaps the most reason to be excited as Downs travelled via Hong Kong for Osaka in Japan on Tuesday to become the first Southern African team to take part in the 16-year-old Club World Cup (CWC).
One of the youngest players in Downs’ 23-man squad has hit form in the past nine months as an increasingly influential‚ tearaway forward while the Brazilians wrapped up the PSL title and then the Caf Champions League.
In past weeks‚ Tau went from fourth to fifth gear‚ playing a hand in five goals in a 5-0 thrashing of Highlands Park‚ then scoring two more in a 4-1 beating of Free State Stars.
His coach‚ Pitso Mosimane‚ believes Tau still has sixth and seventh gears to find as he overcomes his rawness.
But Mosimane is sure to also try to harness Tau’s exuberance and fearlessness of youth in Japan.
“Look‚ I’m a bit cautious also. I don’t want to be too confident.
"But I’m excited to go there – it might be the last one‚ who knows‚” Tau said.
“It might be the first of bigger things.
"But I’m excited to go there and actually try and show that there is a good team in the southern hemisphere‚ rather than always seeing the bigger ones – the ones who are always the favourites.
“And to show that we exist‚ also.
“The expectations are to win. It’s simple. You can’t go into a tournament to just participate.
“Especially for me – I think of winning all the time. So I think the first thing is to win the first game and go to the semi. Then win the semi‚ and go to the final.”
Tau said Downs should avoid following SA football teams’ tendency to downgrade themselves once they arrive at big tournaments and see the big names on show.
At this CWC‚ none come bigger than Real Madrid.
“I think we can compete. There are certain things we need to change about South African football and going to these major tournaments – like the U-23s went to the Olympics and they should have made us even more proud‚” Sundowns’ raw diamond development product said.
“We also need to go there and do more – that’s all that I’m asking.
“I think we always think of ourselves as underdogs‚ going there to participate.
"And looking at the other names – Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid‚ and Sergio Ramos.
“But it’s only football.
"We are all there to play. That’s the only focus there should be.
“They are also human. One thing is that we can’t allow is for other stars to outshine us. We can’t allow that.
“It excites a player to play in these tournaments.
"You can now set goals – going from the CWC‚ you see where you want to go.
“In any tournament‚ any team can win it.
"It’s all about belief. If you believe you can‚ go and do your best and prove it.
“To be underdogs‚ I don’t know about that. How can we be underdogs when we just won the Champions League.
“All the teams there will be representing their continents. There are no underdogs.”
Downs have been playing in searing heat for a year in the PSL and winning the Champions League.
In Japan‚ they go to 13 degrees Celsius early-winter temperatures.
“That’s secondary to everything. I think the guys are well experienced even to help me out in the cold.
“But I know I’ll get big jackets and adapt. We can’t look at the weather. We can’t make excuses‚” Tau said.
Downs’ first match is their quarterfinal at Osaka’s 40 000-seater Suita City Football Stadium on Sunday‚ where they meet the winners of Thursday’s playoff between Japan’s Kashima Antlers and Auckland City of New Zealand. - TMG Digital