When Club de Futbol Monterrey’s attacking spearhead Humberto Suazo picked up an injury in training on Friday, there was understandable concern on the faces of his team-mates and coaching staff alike.
Forced to make a tactical reshuffle just two days before his side’s FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012 quarter-final against Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai, Rayados coach Victor Vucetich came up with a wholly unexpected solution, drafting inexperienced 19-year-old wide man Jesus Corona into the side.
“I only found out I was playing when the coach gave his team-talk at two in the afternoon,” Corona told FIFA.com. “I couldn’t believe it. The first thing I did was text my family to tell them the news, ask them to stay tuned and to pray for me.”
Despite having only made a handful of appearances for the Mexicans and being the sixth-youngest player to compete in the FIFA Club World Cup, Corona was one of the mainstays of the Monterrey midfield and even opened the scoring nine minutes into the game.
“I’ve always made goals, but this one was put on a plate for me,” said the teenager of his side-footed finish from the edge of the six-yard box, which followed a slick passing move. “We played pass after pass, then someone slid the ball across and there it was ...,” said the goalscorer, his description of the goal cut short when he is pinched from behind by a giggling Suazo, who made way for Corona after picking up an injury to his right leg.
“To be honest I was sad he had to get injured for me to get into the side,” said the replacement, who added that the whole squad has been behind him: “They told me to stay calm and to do the things I know on the pitch. You always have to be prepared but things like that always help a lot.”
An admirer of former Brazil striker Ronaldo, Corona has been with the Monterrey first-team squad for the last two seasons, though it is only this year that he has begun to figure on the team sheet on a regular basis. The third of five children and an avid baseball fan – taking after his father – he can count on the unconditional support of each and every one of his team-mates, a key factor in the development of any young player.
“Coro’s been doing really well. He deserved this opportunity and he didn’t disappoint,” Rayados captain Jose Maria Basanta told FIFA.com.
Midfield colleague and Ecuador national team captain Walter Ayovi was in complete agreement: “The confidence that people have put in him on and off the pitch has allowed him to go and express himself.”
“He’s a cracking player and it all comes naturally to him,” added Cesar Delgado, whose late brace sealed Monterrey’s win over the South Koreans. “He’s on the right track and if he keeps it up and stays grounded, he’ll make the switch to European football without any trouble.”
Lying in wait for Corona and co in Thursday’s semi-final are European champions Chelsea, a challenge the youngster is relishing: “I always watch them on TV and it’s a terrific incentive to be playing a team like that. We know that no CONCACAF team has ever reached the FIFA Club World Cup final before and that’s going to spur us on ever more.”
While the Monterrey tyro has his sights set on a long and productive career, he has plenty to be keeping him occupied in the meantime. “I’d better get back to the bus and check my phone,” he said, making a hasty departure as our chat came to an end. “I’m sure there’ll be a stack of messages from my family.”