Christian Bermudez took part in his first FIFA tournament back in 2007, at that year's FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, where he and his fellow Mexican youngsters made it as far as the quarter-finals before falling to eventual winners Argentina.
Two years on and the 22-year-old is back on the world stage and shining brightly once more. After Bermudez and Co had helped Atlante to bring the CONCACAF Champions League trophy to Cancun in May, they earned the right to mix it with the best here at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009.
And the small but technically gifted playmaker made quite an impression in his first match in Abu Dhabi. Including some dazzling runs and showing good vision, he topped it all off with a goal that helped Atlante on their way to a 3-0 win over Auckland City.
"We put in a great performance against Auckland," said the 1.63m Bermudez to FIFA.com. "They didn't give us a lot of room but we still created a lot of chances, so we're very happy with how it went."
The No18 was also pleased with his own display: "I'm delighted that I scored but what pleases me more is how the whole team played. We remained very patient and stuck to our game plan."
Born and bred in Mexico City, Bermudez has been on Atlante's books since 2002. He worked his way up the youth-team ranks and signed his first professional contract three years ago, going on to win the 2007 Apertura and the pinnacle of his career to date: May's Champions League victory.
Hobbit standing tall
'The Hobbit', as his team-mates jokingly call him, will have to raise his game yet further in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup against UEFA Champions League winners Barcelona. Despite the calibre of the opposition, however, Bermudez does not expect his team to change their tactics too drastically.
"We'll have to see how the match pans out, but our plan is to play the way we did in our opener," said the 58-kilo featherweight. "I see no reason why we should change our style, and I expect us to attack Barcelona down the flanks.
"Barcelona's midfield is exceptionally strong. Xavi and Iniesta will dictate the tempo of the match and that will be the key to our success. We'll have to keep both of them on a tight leash and then we'll stand a chance, but it won't be easy," he concluded.
Though the respect he has for the big guns from Europe is clear for all to see, Bermudez is aware that by beating Barcelona, Atlante would rewrite the history books in becoming the first CONCACAF team to reach the final of a FIFA Club World Cup. Their Mexican counterparts Necaxa are the only team from the zone to defeat UEFA opposition in such a tournament, downing Real Madrid on penalties at Brazil 2000 to secure third place.
"This semi-final is our big chance, and we need to realise this as we prepare to face Barcelona. It could be the most important match in the history of the club: a win would not only see us knock Barcelona out but also reach the final. And if we win that, then we'd be the best team in the world."
He may be 'The Hobbit', but he has certainly set the bar high.