Colombia's modest hero of Bangkok
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It seems apparent to everyone who watched the match. But when FIFA.com suggested to Colombia goalkeeper Juan Lozano that he was the hero of their epic defeat of Iran on Sunday, a win that took them through to the last eight of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 on their first appearance in the competition, he was having none of it.

“No, no, please!” said the shotstopper, with a broad grin etched on his face. “This win was down to the team, not just one individual. It’s true that I played the best game of my life, or at least the most important one, but if my team-mates hadn’t gone and scored the goals, then we wouldn’t be enjoying this wonderful moment right now.”

There is no disputing that argument, though the 30-year-old Lozano neglected to say that it was his accurate long throw-out that set Yefri Duque up for Los Cafeteros’ first goal.

“The ball had just gone behind and I asked the ball boy to give it back to me quickly because I could see they [the Iran players] had their backs turned to me,” said the quick-thinking custodian, recalling the move that would put Colombia in the lead. “Luckily, my throw was a good one and Yefri put it away nicely.”

An admirer of fellow countryman Rene Higuita and Spain's Iker Casillas, Lozano had kept Colombia in the game up to that point with some excellent stops, including not one but two remarkable double saves.

We haven’t finished yet and we want more. The semi-finals are no longer a fantasy.
Juan Lozano

“I’d be lying if I told you my hands didn’t hurt,” added the Colombia keeper, whose stout resistance was only broken 35 minutes into the game. “When they pulled that goal back I felt as if the world had fallen in on me. We recovered quickly, though, and defended really well.”

He added, almost with a sense of disbelief: “Now we’re among the top eight sides in the world.” Colombian football might not traditionally have a reputation for defensive play, but it is their strength at the back that has helped this Cafetero side go as far as they have.  In restricting the free-scoring Russians to just two goals and edging out the Iranians by the odd goal in three, they have shackled two of the world’s strongest futsal outfits.

Explaining the reasons behind the tactical shift, coach Arney Fonnegra told FIFA.com: "In my experience, every time we have gone out to play an attacking game in tournaments like this, we have been eliminated. Some will compliment us; others will criticise our defensive system. But our concept is clear and our conscience is clean."

What is Lozano’s view on that? “The gaffer is absolutely right,” came the answer. “In this game you have to defend well first and then attack. It’s not the team that plays the best football or scores the greatest goals that wins, but the one that keeps clean sheets and takes its chances."

The durable Ukrainians are up next for the South Americans, and there is every likelihood that Lozano and Co will elect to keep things tight once again, as the keeper explained: “They play a more similar game to Russia than Iran, though all three like to take the game to you. One thing I am sure of is that we’ll need to play a near-perfect match to beat them.”

An international since 2005, Lozano dedicated his side’s win over Iran to his mother, who passed away 18 months ago. He also had dedications to make to his father, brothers, neighbours and the country as a whole: “I bet Colombia is really excited about our performances because it’s not every day that one of the country’s teams does something like this.”

And as he went on to say, Lozano has no intention of leaving Thailand just yet: “Even if we go out in the quarters we’ll have had a great tournament, but we are confident in our own abilities. We haven’t finished yet and we want more. The semi-finals are no longer a fantasy and it’s a 40-minute game where it’s the cleverer side that wins. All I can say is we want to be among the top four teams.”

The question is, will there be a happy ending for the hero of Colombia’s epic voyage?