The saying goes that history only remembers the winners. But when it comes to football, the maxim does not always hold true. Indeed, just as the 1974 FIFA World Cup™ will always be remembered for the dazzling Netherlands side that lost in the final to West Germany, so the story of the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2013 will reserve a special chapter for the exploits of Rafael Riobo.
The Spaniard did not win the title. In fact, he did not even reach the final. He did, however, earn the respect of all his opponents, thanks to his remarkable goalscoring record and spectacular victories on the way to finishing third in the competition. "For me he's the best player in the world at the moment, without a doubt," defending champion Alfonso Ramos, who drew 1-1 with Riobo in the pair's match in Group A, told FIFA.com.
The statistics certainly lend weight to Ramos's claim. Playing as Bayern Munich, Riobo finished the tournament top of the scoring charts with 20 goals – five more than newly crowned champion, Bruce Grannec – and came within 20 minutes of securing a place in the grand final.
"Thinking about it now, in the heat of the moment, I'd say I'm disappointed more than anything else. But looking at it rationally, coming second – sorry, third – is a good result," said Riobo, still trying to piece together his semi-final defeat by Mexico's Andrei Torres Vivero.
I've learned that, in tournaments like this, you have to be able to keep a cool head at crucial moments.
"I was 2-0 up after 70 minutes and could easily have reached the final," Riobo lamented. "But I made the mistake of not closing out the game and not sticking with my attacking formation. Then he [Andrei Torres Vivero] won a penalty, and it all fell apart." Indeed, after being held to a 2-2 draw, Riobo had Franck Ribery sent off in extra time, allowing his Mexican opponent to complete a dramatic turnaround and reach the final with a 4-2 victory.
"I'm feeling pretty down and disappointed," said Riobo, who, despite being a proud fan of Real Madrid, decided not to choose the same team as all his rivals and played instead with Bayern Munich. "I'd played with Real Madrid all year as they have Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the one who makes the difference.
"But I don't like to base my game around one player alone, which is why I decided to go for something different. They (Bayern Munich) are a more complete team," added the history student, who hopes to return to compete again next year and improve his final position.
As Riobo explained, his experience at the Grand Final in Madrid has taught him some valuable lessons that will stand him in good stead for the future. "I've learned that, in tournaments like this, you have to be able to keep a cool head at crucial moments. You need to know how to play it safe and be more cautious."
"I hope to return next year and put all of this into practice," he continued, before adding: "I'm going to do everything I can to make it all the way to the top." Riobo's future opponents: you have been warned.