Club World Cup Second-chance Sundowns hit Japan ahead of schedule

The Pretoria-based team will raise their continent’s standard for the first time at the Club World Cup.

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A South African Mamelodi Sundowns' football club fan blows a vuvuzela prior to the start of the CAF Champions League final match on October 23, 2016 at the Army stadium in Borg el-Arab, near Alexandria play

A South African Mamelodi Sundowns' football club fan blows a vuvuzela prior to the start of the CAF Champions League final match on October 23, 2016 at the Army stadium in Borg el-Arab, near Alexandria

(AFP)
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Mamelodi Sundowns will raise their continent’s standard for the first time at the Club World Cup after becoming only the second South African club to win the African Champions League in 21 years.

The Pretoria-based team had actually been eliminated in the last knockout round before the group phase.

The South African side was given a second chance when it was discovered that AS Vita Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo had used a suspended player.

Sundowns grabbed the second opportunity with relish and romped through their group matches to top the standings.

They defeated Zesco United of Zambia narrowly in the semi-final, before dominating Zamalek in an exciting two-legged final.

The club has always held lofty ambitions of conquering the continent but coach Pitso Mosimane insists they are “ahead of schedule’’.

Owned by one of South Africa’s richest men, mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, the club dominate domestically because of their spending power, able to attract the best players with record transfer fees and wage packets.

They have also looked outside the continent for Brazilian centre back Ricardo Nascimento, who played in Portugal’s top flight last season, and Leonardo Castro, a Colombian striker.

Khama Billiat, their Zimbabwean international striker, and Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango are among four Sundowns players nominated among five finalists for the annual award for the best African player at a club on the continent.

The other two are South African internationals Keegan Dolly and Hlompho Kekana, who captains the side.

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