Four-goal hero hopes Finns adopt new Rascals
They took their time but Colombia’s gifted footballers have gradually got used to Töölö’s artificial turf. From an opening 0-0 draw to Mexico, the grass has grown on them and they finished off Group A by mowing down hosts Finland 9-1. Now the Cafeteros and their four-goal hero Carlos Hidalgo, believe their familiarity with the pitch and Finnish support could help them beat Costa Rica and reach a best-ever semi-final position in a FIFA event.
Hidalgo, star of that devastating performance, is hoping that with the hosts eliminated, Helsinki locals will take the free-scoring Colombians to their hearts and adopt them as their team.
“Although we helped knock out Finland, I hope the people in the stadium back us and not Costa Rica,” said the forward. “I think after a slow start we have begun to entertain and show what we can do.”
Spectators in the Töölö stadium were already generously applauding the 17-year-old when he curled a delightful free-kick to open the scoring in that decisive match. He doubled the score with a penalty and added two more predatory strikes in the second half before being substituted by coach Eduardo Lara.
“Free kicks are always nice to score and I’m so happy that it went in. It gave me a lot of confidence to take the penalty,” he said modestly.
Back home in Villa Victoria de Pasto, Colombia, Hidalgo’s feats were being watched on a giant screen in his house by his family and friends, where the goals were being celebrated as if they were taking place in the living room itself rather than those many thousands of miles away.
“We have two televisions in my parent’s house but with all the people coming to our place to see the game they are too small,” he says smiling at the thought. “So we borrowed a bigger one from my aunt’s house and now everyone can see the action.
“Although we have a small house, my mum is very proud. Someone recorded them watching me and I saw them jumping up and down so I know how much it means.”
A stone’s throw from his house is the field where his father first taught him how to take free kicks and not much further, the football school where he enrolled after performing the art so well.
“When I was five years old we went to the pitch to kick the ball around and he gave me advice I have always remembered of how to shoot. Of course, I have been taught many other things since then and learn from professionals, but I will never forget my first kicks.”
Carlos impressed in each age category for the school team before being spotted by local side Deportivo Pasto and, in turn, the national U-17 team. And with his stunning performance first at the South American championship in Bolivia and now in Finland, the rest is becoming history.
On Saturday, Hidalgo, currently the tournament’s topscorer alongside Freddy Adu, will line up against Costa Rica hoping to add to his four goals and bring more joy to his family and country.
“Costa Rica play good football and have a solid team with no weak links,” he says, admitting to having watched the Ticos during the finals. “But if Colombia put the ball on the ground and play the way we like to, I am confident we can win.”
And the tall, elegant striker does not stop there.
“There are some great teams in this competition: we already know about Argentina and Brazil. Portugal and Spain also play good football, but I think if we don’t get overconfident and maintain our belief, Colombia can win the championship.
“I always bring my parents back something from the different countries I go to with the team,” he adds. “I would love to bring them back the top goalscorer trophy.”