After scoring Atlante’s maiden FIFA Club World Cup goal in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat of Auckland City, a win that sets up a semi-final meeting with Barcelona at UAE 2009, Daniel Arreola is understandably happy with life. His face still wreathed in smiles following his exploits at Zayed Sports City, the versatile 24-year-old shared his post-match impressions with FIFA.com and underlined what the tournament means to the Mexicans.
“It’s an amazing feeling, better than I could ever have imagined,” he said. “For weeks now we’ve been thinking about the Club World Cup and our first game. Fortunately we came up with the right result.”
Arreola set the Iron Colts on the road to victory nine minutes before half-time, pouncing on Adam McGeorge’s mishit clearance and slamming the ball home from close range. “You always need a bit of luck, don’t you?” he reflected, a broad grin across his face.
“When I saw the ball just sitting there my only thought was to hit it hard. When it went in I felt so happy. It was a historic goal for the club and I just thought about my family, friends and the people who helped me get where I am today. I had a special celebration prepared but I forgot all about it and celebrated like a little kid.”
Mixed in with all that delight was a sense of relief at breaking the deadlock. “When you’re better than the other team and the first goal doesn’t come and time goes ticking by, then there’s always a danger of desperation setting in,” he explained. “But we knew that if we kept our shape, the goal would come sooner or later. All we had to do was wait for the loose balls to come. And luckily one of them fell to me.”
Aside from his own contribution, Arreola is also keen to emphasise the team ethic. “We were looking forward to this game so much and were so focused on what we had to do that we maybe made it look easier than it actually was," he said. "What we did best of all I think was to keep the pressure on throughout the game.”
The match everyone wanted
Born in Cancun, the city where the Colts decamped to in 2007, Arreola is well aware of what the upcoming showdown with Barcelona means to the Atlante fans. “The thought of playing Barcelona has been on our minds ever since the draw was made,” he continued. “What we didn’t want to do was lose concentration for the first game, but we’ve done the job and we have a different kind of pressure now.”
Against the New Zealanders, coach Jose Cruz deployed Arreola on the left flank, a position in which he was able to shine, getting past his marker on several occasions. As he knows only too well, though, things will not be so straightforward on Wednesday.
“I’ll be up against Dani Alves and Puyol but it’ll be great to have that challenge," he said. "The three of us are all human and as soon as the ball starts to roll, anything can happen.
“They’re the best team in the world but out on the pitch we can’t afford to show them any respect. I don’t see why we can’t take them on. We know we can lose but we might also pull off the shock of the tournament.”
With the Catalans as opponents and a place in the final up for grabs, the Mexicans will not be lacking in motivation for their stern midweek examination. “We would have preferred to play them in the final, but we’ve got them in the semis and that’s that,” commented Arreola. “We are in good shape physically and we’ve done our preparations. Let’s just toss the coin once and for all and see which side it comes down on.”
For his parting shot, the Colts talisman has an interesting observation to make, one that reflects the belief in the Atlante camp: “If we lose, some people in Mexico will just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Well, it was Barcelona after all’. Inside you see it differently, though. We have this dream about becoming the champions and Barça are in our way. We have to think like that, otherwise what would be the point in coming all this way?”