In the eyes of many observers, United States starlet Alex Nimo is ready to take over from Freddy Adu as America's hottest young footballing talent. Born in Liberia, he and his family subsequently made the move stateside to Portland, Oregon where before long he was starring for his local team. Now, eight years later, he is a key figure in the USA U-17 squad currently challenging for honours on Asian soil.
As his team continue to put the finishing touches to their opening-match preparations, Nimo told FIFA.com: "We're really looking forward to Monday's game. The team spirit is very good, and we're all calmly preparing for the match. There's a great togetherness in the squad and we have total faith in each other."
Having visited Korea in June to play in the Eight Nations International U-17 Tournament, the USA team are already fairly familiar with their present surroundings. Even so, the scorching mid-summer heat, often reaching 40 degrees Celsius, is sure to make life difficult for the United States and their fellow competitors.
Another factor is the psychological pressure on the young American side, with many experts predicting the Stars and Stripes will top Group E and be a force in the knockout stages too. However, Nimo seems free from the burden of such heavy expectations. "The fact that everyone expects us to perform well is something to be pleased about. All we have to do is give it our best in every match," says Nimo, who enjoys listening to rap and hip-hop music when not playing or training. "First we are looking to reach the second round, and we are aware that anything is possible after that."
That said, the Americans have not had things all their own way in the build up to this tournament. They may have qualified for Korea 2007 comfortably, thanks in part to Nimo's three-goal haul in qualifying, but they were embarrassed in the aforementioned Eight Nations event, suffering two defeats and being eliminated very early on. "At the time, we went into the tournament without any pressure, and because they were friendlies, we were not too disappointed about the result," admits Nimo. "But I think our coach (John Hackworth) was expecting much more from us. We had to really pull our socks up after that tournament."
Whatever was said, Hackworth's choice words appear to have found their mark. In the European tour that followed, his team defeated their German counterparts 3-1, and the level of confidence in the side is high.
"We are like brothers. We are enjoying our time together on and off the pitch," Nimo told FIFA.com, adding that the whole team watched Saturday's matches together on TV. "Because of our training schedule we couldn't watch all the games, but we saw the match between Korea DPR and England," says the powerful front-man. "Both sides played well, but the Koreans were very impressive. I thought they could have won".
Nimo, who rarely misses a weekend of La Liga action, says he is a die-hard FC Barcelona fan: "There's Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and now on top of that there's Thierry Henry," says Nimo excitedly. "My role in the USA team is like Ronaldinho's, wandering the attack looking for chances. But one day I hope to be able to play like Messi," continues the ambitious youngster.
According to Nimo, the USA team's biggest asset is its mental strength: "We never give up. We give absolutely everything to win until that final whistle is blown." Determined to help get his team's Korea 2007 bid off to a flying start and produce a moment of magic for his four-year-old brother watching back home, fans would do well to keep a close eye on Alex Nimo during Monday's match.