Riquelme: A unique experience

Argentina's Juan Roman Riquelme is one player who needs no introduction. Now on the books of his beloved Boca Juniors, the cerebral playmaker is currently captaining the Albiceleste in China in their bid to retain the Men's Olympic Football Tournament title and remains an integral part of the senior national team.

On the eve of his side's quarter-final clash with the Netherlands, the former Barcelona and Villarreal midfielder spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about the Olympic experience so far, a possible semi-final showdown with Brazil and his immediate goal - "being here on 23 August and winning the gold medal."

FIFA.com: Juan Roman, as someone who has previously played in the most prestigous tournaments in the world, how would you describe your first experience at the Olympic Games?
Juan Roman Riquelme: Without doubt, it's like nothing I've done before. You cannot imagine what it's like when you enter the Olympic Village. We had the good fortune to stay there and meet athletes from all over the world. For me it was incredible and I fully enjoyed it. Never before had I experienced anything quite like it.

Who were you surprised to come across there?
The first day we arrived, we were lucky enough to have Kobe Bryant come over and eat with us. He took photos with all of us and told us how much he liked Argentinian football. That was quite a surprise. Then every evening we would dine with the tennis and hockey players, and judo athletes too. Truth be told, we're really enjoying ourselves, and above all because it's different to those tournaments when you're secluded in your hotel. It's a great experience and one that is leaving a big impression on me.

Speaking about the team, how are they and how do you see their chances in the tournament?
The team is good, improving with every game. I sense we're growing in confidence and composure, but we know we can't afford a single mistake. Any team that slips up now will be on their way home, and it's our intention to be here until the 23rd.

How does it feel to be captain?
It feels normal as I still have the same job to do as before. For me it's the same with or without the skipper's armband: I'm still obliged to help my colleagues and the team as a whole to play as well as possible. I was lucky enough to be among the three overage players picked by the coach, and so I'm trying to justify my inclusion as best I can. The rest is about focusing on reaching the final, nothing else.

What can you tell us about Saturday's opponents the Netherlands?
We know they play very well and have some very good players like [Roy] Makaay, [Ryan] Babel and [Hedwiges] Maduro, with the latter enjoying a good spell in Valencia. We'll have to work really hard, but we're confident we have the will to do it. We have a very good chance of winning, and hopefully we can do just that.

In recent times, Argentina-Netherlands has developed into a classic rivalry. Why do you think that is?
It's true that we've met a lot and at decisive stages in tournaments. Both teams try to play good football, use the ball well and attempt to put on a good show for the watching fans. Nowadays it's hard to find two sides that will go on the attack from the off, but that's what our two teams have always tried to do. I hope those watching will enjoy the game tomorrow and that we'll be celebrating at the end.

We know there is a tough last-eight tie against the Netherlands to negotiate, but we have to ask you about the possible semi-final showdown with Brazil...
(Laughs) Such a meeting would be like a final for all concerned. But before we can contemplate that, we have a very tough game against the Dutch, and Brazil will have an equally hard time against Cameroon. I just hope we win. If we do that, I don't mind whether we face Brazil or not. If we want to make the final, we have to beat everyone they put in front of us.

Leaving aside the experience of being in China, is it hard being away from home for such a long period and are you in touch with your family a lot?
Every day (smiles). You really miss your kids, parents and friends, but I'm delighted to be doing this. I also know it makes them happy to see me like this. I'm trying to enjoy everything to the utmost and share with them what I'm experiencing everyday. They know this is very important to me, which is why they are as happy as I am. Hopefully it will all go well and I can give them something to cheer about. That way everyone can be satisfied in the end.

You talked about your kids just now. Do you they know yet that Daddy is a star of world football?
Well yes, they know what it is I do. My lad is six years old and he's football mad - he even cries when someone scores against us at Boca! He knows all the names of the Albiceleste players, and I love that.

Is he playing football yet?
Yes, he loves it. If he chooses to pursue a career in football one day, I'll wish him all the best. But if he doesn't, then he just should choose something he enjoys.

Did you by chance promise to bring him home a medal of some description?
One always aspires to do as well as possible, and even more so when you represent your country. I hope we can improve game by game and make it to the last day in the best possible condition. We want to win the gold medal and would be thrilled if we managed that, as would all Argentinians. That's why we're here.