Keeping a cool head is crucial when it comes to the knockout stages of a major international competition, especially for goalkeepers, who need to keep their wits about them at all times and show their team-mates they are in control.
The man who has been performing that task for Mexico at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 is 31-year-old Jose Corona, the veteran and captain of a team that is now limbering up for their next hurdle, a semi-final against Japan this coming Tuesday.
“The communication between the three over-age players and the youngsters is going to be very important,” the shotstopper said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com after his side’s 4-2 extra-time win over Senegal on Saturday. “We need to help them stay calm. The next match is vital but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to stick to what we’ve been doing so far and not give any space away, and we have to be relaxed and enjoy every moment.”
Relaxed is exactly what the Mexicans were against the Lions of Teranga, maintaining their poise even when their opponents came back from 2-0 down late on in the game to force extra-time.
Though those two goals were the first the Mexican custodian has conceded at London 2012, he held his nerve, sending a strong message out to the rest of the team.
“You know there’s always a chance that you’re going to let one in,” he explained. “I was fine though, and I knew that I had to show my team-mates that I was relaxed. It’s a shame I couldn’t keep a clean sheet, but you also have to say that our opponents were good enough to take some of the chances that came their way. Fortunately we managed to limit the damage they inflicted and come away with the win.”
The Cruz Azul man is competing at his second Games, his first Olympic experience coming at Athens 2004, where El Tri failed to progress beyond the group phase, a disappointment that has made this run all the more memorable for the keeper:
“I’m delighted with the result and at reaching the semis by beating strong opponents who made things tough for us right the way through. I’m happy with the team’s attitude too. They never gave up.”
As Corona acknowledged though, the Mexicans still have much work ahead of them: “Japan are very well organised and very strong in both physical and mental terms. I think the best way to get the edge is to maintain possession and slowly but surely tilt the balance in our favour.”
Olympic tournaments provide a high-profile showcase for up-and-coming youngsters and a deserved reward for the three over-age members of each squad. And in Corona’s case London 2012 also presents him with an opportunity to stake a claim for a starting place in the Mexico side ahead of the qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Should he come away from the Games with a medal dangling around his neck, he will have done his chances of landing that coveted slot no harm at all: “We’ve come here with the aim of winning a medal and we’ve just taken a big step towards achieving that goal. We’ll be fighting hard in the semi-finals to make it a reality.”