Salvio predicting tough opener

The clock is yet to strike ten this summer's morning in Ulsan, but already the oppressive heat is making its presence felt. Outside the Argentina squad's hotel, the team bus sits idle, ready to ferry the young Albicelestes to training. On the agenda are the final preparations for Sunday's clash with Syria, which brings the first round of Group C matches at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 to a close.

The lift doors across the lobby spring open, and out pop five Argentinian footballers, clearly enjoying their stay in Korea. Among them is diminutive striker Eduardo Salvio, the pacey front-man who forced his way into coach Miguel Angel Tojo's plans to become a key figure in the Albiceleste line-up.

Ignoring the witty banter from his teammates, Salvio agrees to speak exclusively to "It's a great squad, we get on really well and we're all pulling in the same direction. How important is this in regard to winning the title? It's vital, no doubt about it," says the gifted youngster, born in Avellaneda on 13 July 1990.

Despite starting the qualifying competition on the bench, Toto soon became an integral part of the Argentina side that secured its place at Korea 2007 via the South American U-17 Championship Ecuador 2007. At the tournament in March, Salvio scored after coming on as a sub against Paraguay, and kept his place from that point on. He also found the net against the hosts in the final group phase, as well as providing a timely assist in that game.

At 1.69m tall and just 60kg, the slightly built forward has been compared to two of the most effective performers in Argentinian football last year, Boca Juniors' Rodrigo Palacio and Napoli's recent signing from San Lorenzo, Ezequiel Lavezzi. "I tend to do my work outside the box rather than inside, but I'm comfortable going one-on-one with the keeper. I'm just like Juan Roman Riquelme, even though he plays in a different position," assures Toto, an avid Boca fan currently part of the Lanus youth set-up.

All eyes on Syria
As their first game at Korea 2007 looms large, Salvio admits that the pressure is beginning to show in the Argentina camp. "There are a few nerves because it's our first match, but we're going to try and stay calm to make sure things go well for us," says the No.7. "I think we're in great shape. We've adapted to the change in time zone, which was a priority if we wanted to get some proper rest. We're really looking forward to Sunday."

The youngster admits to knowing little about Argentina's next opponents, though refuses to underestimate the task in hand: "You can't say that Syria are a weaker nation, football-wise, because they're here in Korea for a reason. And if I'm saying that it's going to be tough, it's not to play safe: we're convinced that it's going to be a difficult game. We need to try and play our football and stay focused."

"When all the lads get together, we always say that we're looking to win, win and win again," says Toto, when asked about his aims for the elite competition. "But of course, we know that first of all we have to get through the group phase and after that treat each game as a final, as the saying goes."

Nor does the fact that Argentina have yet to add this particular title to their honours list appear to bother Salvio and his team-mates: "That doesn't put us under pressure. We're here to do what we have to do, and we've prepared as hard as we can... But of course, we'd love to make history and be the first Argentinians to win the world U-17 title."