Germán Lux: Argentina's guardian angel
A feature of Argentina's relentless march on Olympic gold has been their unapologetically attack-minded tactics. And while the team's record of 13 goals in four games has met with fulsome praise, there has been much less fanfare about an equally impressive statistic: the side have yet to concede a goal. The Albicelestes' feat - unparalleled at this year's Games - is thanks in no small measure to their so-far-invincible keeper Germán Lux. FIFA.com caught up with the Argentinian shotstopper in Patras and spoke to him about his rich vein of form, his personal ambitions, and Tuesday's semi-final clash with Italy.
The setting for the interview was the team's hotel in Patras where Argentina have been based for most of the tournament. The time is the early hours of Sunday morning, with the team still buzzing from their much-vaunted triumph against Costa Rica. "You might find it hard to believe, but those games exhaust me as well," says the River Plate custodian. When you're not seeing much action in and around your area, you have to stay completely focused for when you're called on. That level of concentration wears you down," he explains.
"I'm not often under siege either at River or for the national side, but if I do slip up, it's very much in the spotlight. People can think, he only had one real save to make and he fluffed it, which is why I'm always desperate to keep a clean sheet. With the passing of each game, I can see Argentina's defence getting better and better. As for my performances, I'd say the most important thing is to transmit a sense of composure to my team-mates," he says with the same poise that he uses to marshal his area. "I've always been like that, very calm. Perhaps it is because I grew up in the countryside. But seriously, why would I want to get all worked up if I'm just playing football. If I didn't enjoy it, then I wouldn't play it," he adds.
Revenge is sweet
In mid 2001, Lux was selected by José Pekerman to play for his country at the FIFA World Youth Championship they were hosting. However, after a couple of games, the coach had a change of heart and gave the No.1 jersey to Wilfredo Caballero, who coincidentally is now the side's reserve goalkeeper in Greece. Although his countrymen went on to lift the trophy, the tournament left Lux with mixed emotions. "Obviously, I wasn't happy with the coach's decision, but you have to respect it and take your place on the sub's bench. The important thing is that you learn from the experience," says the player who now rooms with Caballero. "Yes, we always stay together when the side meets up, and we talk about everything. We did discuss the issue at the time, but that's as far as it went. As far as I'm concerned the subject is now closed."
Three year's down the line, an injury to Franco Costanzo gave the youngster his chance in the River Plate first team. Typically, he grabbed it with both hands and played a key role in helping the side win the Argentinian championship. "I'm not sure if things are coming to me a bit quickly. It's important to be conscious of the privileged position I occupy and to seize the opportunities that I've been given. I'd like to continue in that vein. I'm still very young, and only starting out really."
And what an opportunity it is that Lux has been given. At just 22, he is within touching distance of a medal that has eluded Argentina throughout their long and illustrious history. But first, there is the matter of Italy in the semi-finals. "I haven't seen a lot of their games, though I did seem them struggle early on against Mali. We'll have to be very sharp against them or it could be costly," he warns.
If Argentina do go all the way, something that Lux feels would be "an unforgettable opportunity to make history and bring glory to Argentina", it would go a long way towards making up for Atlanta 96, when the team lost the final in the last minute to Nigeria. "Many of us don't remember much about that final. I was very young," he recalls. But Lux knows where his thoughts will be this time round if Argentina do get their hands on the coveted gold medal. "I'll be thinking of my parents and my family. The people who were there through the good times and the bad."