Club America’s Paraguayan defender Miguel Samudio will be giving his all at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016, just as he always does. Both he and his Águilas team-mates have travelled to Japan with the firm intention of making history, an objective towards which they have already taken the first step by winning their opening match, a hurdle that proved insurmountable for them last year.
In overcoming their fears and releasing some of the pressure weighing on them, they have earned the right to enjoy themselves, especially as their next assignment, against Real Madrid at the International Stadium Yokohama on Thursday, is not so much a football match as a dream come true.
“The next match is a dream match. It’s the one game you all picture in your head when you’re a kid: coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo and the best in the world,” said a beaming Samudio, in conversation with FIFA.com. “First and foremost, I’m very grateful to God for this opportunity. Now we need to rest so that we can focus fully on this big match.”
Those feelings are pretty much shared by the rest of the America contingent in Japan, who can barely conceal their delight and excitement at the prospect of what for them is the match of the century, of their century. Currently celebrating their centenary season, Las Águilas could not imagine a grander occasion to mark the event.
The Mexican side had to suffer a little in setting up their rendezvous with the European champions. The kings of CONCACAF endured a nervy half hour in their second round match against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who took the lead in the first half. “The fact is, things got tricky for us because we thought more about attacking,” said the Paraguayan. “We knew how good they are at making triangular passing moves on the flanks, and we fell behind in pretty unfortunate fashion. We never lost hope, though. We knew it was up to us. We were focused and we knew we could turn it round, which is what we did.”
It’s the game each of us have been wanting to play all our lives.
As well as chasing the ghosts away, America’s comeback in that game has the left-back and his team-mates raising their sights high. “It’s definitely taken some pressure off us because we didn’t get the job done at all last year,” said the 30-year-old Samudio, who witnessed last season’s defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande at first hand. “We knew this was another opportunity for us. I wouldn’t say it was a case of revenge because we were playing a different team to last year, but it was a great opportunity to get off on the right foot. My team-mates played a great game and here we are looking ahead to the match we all wanted to play.”
America are looking beyond Real Madrid, however, as their coach, Ricardo La Volpe, said after the win over Jeonbuk: “We didn’t come here to make up the numbers. My players came to show they were competitive. We’ll go out to play Real Madrid without any kind of burden on our shoulders. We’re going to play a great side and we’re going to see what we’re made of.”
“We have to dream,” commented Samudio, echoing his coach’s words. “We’re going to fight for every ball as if it were the last. We’re going to run until the last drop of sweat. We are really up for this. We’re very excited and we can play good football too. We need to rest because we’ve got a big game coming up, a very tough game, but I can tell you that it’s the game each of us have been wanting to play all our lives.”
Understandably for a defender, Samudio was relieved to hear Gareth Bale will not be lining up against him: “It should makes things a little easier for us down that flank. Even so, Real have got some fantastic players.
“It’s a great opportunity for us and nothing is impossible in this life. They have two legs and a head. They’re human,” he joked. “In the end, though, we all know what team we’re coming up against.” While Samudio had an air of resignation in his voice as he made that final comment, he and his team are free to think big.